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Nine medical students from Limpopo are on their way home from Cuba after having no place to sleep for two nights and no means of returning to their country.
The students, who are part of an SA-Cuba health co-operation agreement, were left stranded after the Limpopo government failed to purchase their return flight tickets on time, leaving the students to their own devices for at least two nights.
On Thursday, Limpopo Health Department spokesman Phuti Seloba said the tickets had finally been bought and the students were on their way home. They were expected to arrive on Saturday.
DA health spokeswoman Patricia Kopane said this was unacceptable.
“How can we send our children to study in a foreign land to bring much-needed skills back to South Africa, but not bother with budgeting to bring them home? This incompetence cannot be tolerated.
“I will be contacting the minister of health to ask for an urgent resolution of this matter,” she said.
When asked why there had been delays, Seloba blamed “administrative issues” and “bureaucracy”.
There had been “lots of delays in the administration of finances and processes in our area”, he said.
The Limpopo government was on the “road to recovery” and sometimes in “quality assurance” there were delays.
It usually took seven days to process financial payments, said Seloba, but in this case it had taken much longer.
He said his department was investigating the reason for the delay.
“If we (find) that one of us has been a problem, we will deal with that person the way that we deal with problems,” Seloba said.
“We will eliminate that person the same way we eliminate problems.”
Seloba said his department did not want to continue to be known for and associated with poor financial administration.
Kopane said the nine students, who had been in contact with her party, should have been flown back to SA three weeks ago to start their final-year training.
“The Limpopo Health Department has been under national administration since December.
“The national Department of Health is therefore in a position to ensure that urgent steps are taken,” said Kopane.
“Our students must be kept safe and brought home” she added.