President Cyril Ramaphosa. Picture: Elmond Jiyane/GCIS
President Cyril Ramaphosa. Picture: Elmond Jiyane/GCIS

SA did not donate PPE to Cuba, says Ramaphosa

By Mayibongwe Maqhina Time of article published Jan 7, 2021

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CAPE TOWN: President Cyril Ramaphosa has dismissed suggestions that the government has made a donation of "medical material supplies" to the Cuban government.

Ramaphosa said the SANDF was instead requested to transport a consignment of PPE that was donated by private individuals in South Africa to Cuba when it went to fetch its students studying there.

He was responding to parliamentary questions posed by DA MP Geordin Hill-Lewis after the City Press reported in August that South Africa had made generous donations of “medical material supplies” worth tens of millions of rand to the Cuban government.

The report was sparked after Cuban Ambassador Rodolfo Benítez Verson publicly thanked South Africa for assisting in the battle against Covid-19 in Cuba.

According to a statement in the Cuban embassy’s Facebook page, the second donation – consisting of medical materials and supplies for health facilities – was loaded on a special flight of SAA on July 3.

ANC secretary-general Ace Magashule and the SANDF's General MJ Tyhalisi symbolically handed over the donation to Verson at OR Tambo International Airport.

At the time the report surfaced, there was no official comment from the government and ANC national spokesperson Pule Mabe could not confirm who made the donation which included medicines, protective equipment and other medical supplies.

In his parliamentary questions, Hill-Lewis asked the relevant details to the donation of PPE by the government to Cuba and why Magashule played a significant leading role at the handover of the equipment.

In his written response, Ramaphosa said the government had entered into a government-to-government agreement with the Republic of Cuba.

"In the area of health, the collaboration focuses on the provision of qualified Cuban doctors to work in rural or disadvantaged areas of South Africa and medical training for young South Africans in Cuba.

"In addition, a Cuban health brigade of 187 medical personnel arrived in South Africa in April 2020 to support the country’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic," he said.

Ramaphosa also said under a bilateral agreement between Cuba and South Africa’s armed forces, the SANDF has a number of students who are studying in Cuba.

He explained that some of the SANDF students completed their studies in June 2020.

"Due to travel restrictions in many parts of the world and because there were no commercial flights to or from Cuba, the SANDF chartered an aircraft from SAA to collect the students.

"The aircraft also carried a consignment of goods such as personal protective equipment (PPE), sanitary towels and toiletries to the SANDF students who had not completed their studies and were remaining in Cuba and to the South African medical students on behalf of the Department of Health."

Ramaphosa stated that the SANDF also received a request to transport a consignment of PPE that had been donated by private individuals in South Africa to the government of Cuba.

"Since there was space on the aircraft, the SANDF agreed to carry this consignment," he said.

Ramaphosa insisted that the South African government had not made any donation of personal protective equipment to the government of Cuba.

"Neither the SANDF nor the Department of Health has details related to the involvement of a senior office-bearer of a particular political party," he said.

Political Bureau

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