Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa File picture: Supplied
Cape Town – Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa is expected to host his Cuban counterpart on Wednesday for bilateral talks at OR Tambo House in Pretoria, a statement from Ramaphosa's office said on Tuesday.

Cuban vice president Salvador Valdes Mesa will discuss bilateral political, economic and trade ties with Ramaphosa.

"Vice President Mesa is on a working visit to South Africa which will include paying a courtesy call on President Jacob Zuma and visit Cuban doctors currently working in one of Gauteng’s hospitals," the statement said.

"Cuba has become an established strategic partner for South Africa in the Latin American region and in multilateral fora. The past 22 years of diplomatic relations have experienced a robust and constructive interaction at both bilateral and multilateral level."

The statement stresses that both Ramaphosa and President Jacob Zuma had undertaken fruitful trips to Cuba in the last few years to strengthen ties between the two countries.

"To date the two countries have signed over 30 bilateral agreements comprising vast areas of cooperation in education, defence, science and technology, agriculture, health services, infra-structure development, housing and water and sanitation, health cooperation, human settlements technical exchange, water resource management and water supply and public works technical assistance."

Since 2012, close to 3 000 South African students were receiving medical training in Cuba, with 520 students from "disadvantaged backgrounds" having graduated as doctors.

"Thirty-four Cuban engineers are currently working in SA under the auspices of the SA/Cuba Agreement on Cooperation in the fields of Water Resource Management and Water Supply, signed on 09 September 2013."

While Ramaphosa will host Mesa in the evening, he will be welcomed by Ekurhuleni mayor Mzwandile Masina earlier in the day where a special ceremony to honour Oliver Tambo would be held.

Mesa and his delegation would participate in a wreath laying ceremony, the Ekurhuleni metro municipality said in a statement.

"This visit remains historically and politically significant as Cuba is synonymous with the liberation of South African people," the metro said. "Led by Commander-in-Chief Fidel Castro, Cuban Soldiers selflessly sacrificed their lives in the darkest days of apartheid fighting against the draconian rule of the Apartheid regime." The statement also recorded the words of Tambo when he visited Cuba in 1979 for a conference on behalf of national liberation movements. At the time, Tambo had said:

"...We have listened to the message of Commander-in-Chief Fidel Castro. We would like to pay tribute to his revolutionary dedication to the cause of the ordinary man. An outstanding leader, whose name has become a household name, certainly among peoples who are struggling against imperialism, colonialism and all these vices; certainly among people who, like the Cuban people, are conducting armed struggle for the liberation of their countries and their peoples. We have always been inspired by the mere mention of this name."

Tambo, the longest serving president of the African National Congresss, died in in 1993, aged 75. This year marks the 100th anniversary of his birth, which will be celebrated by government throughout 2017. Castro, who ruled Cuba for over five decades, died on November 25 last year. Zuma flew to Havana to attend his funeral.