SA medical students assaulted by Cuban police partied into the night - Deputy Health Minister

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  • Deputy Health Minister told the NCOP that the students reported that they were told to switch off the music by police.
  • He says while in another country, that country's rules should be respected.
  • Video footage of the assault was circulated on social media.

South African medical students, who were assaulted by police in Cuba, partied until the early hours of the morning and were warned to switch off their music, according to Deputy Health Minister Sibongiseni Dhlomo.

On Tuesday, MPs in the National Council of Provinces questioned Dhlomo on what the government had done to ensure the safety of South African students abroad.

The incident in Cuba occurred on 7 November at a hostel in Santa Clara, Dhlomo said.

"The students were beaten by the police on campus during a birthday celebration party which was supposed to start at 19:00, but ended up starting at 21:00 and went on and on until the very early hours of the morning. It is not known yet who called the police. However, the students did indicate that the police told them to turn down [off] the music as it was too loud for the early hours of the morning," he said.

PICS | No breakfasts and forced to sell their clothes for money - SA medical students stranded in Cuba

The student residence is also on the site of a hospital.

"We have been informed that the university management have notified the provincial leadership of the Villa Clara [Medical University of Villa Clara] that a commission has been established to investigate the incident. We will await the outcomes. We are having a meeting with the attaché in Cuba this week," he said.

In a video widely circulating on social media, a group of students are seen being manhandled by Cuban police.

In the 30 second clip, a man believed to be a student can be seen sitting on a couch with his hands tied behind his back while an officer grabs him by the neck and shoulder while slapping him on his chest.

At least two other students were slapped through the face during the video clip, while officers dragged another man away amid loud screams of protests.

Other videos circulating on social media depicted the moments before the Cuban police officers stormed into the building.

In one clip, the students can be seen sitting peacefully while listening to music.

The students are all believed to be part of the Nelson Mandela/Fidel Castro Medical Collaboration Programme between South Africa and Cuba that started in 1997.

The aim of the programme was to address the shortage of medical practitioners in historically disadvantaged areas, as well as improve human resource workforce capacity and strengthen the healthcare system in South Africa.

Dhlomo said students went to Cuba and understood that they were there to get a degree and may not break the country's laws.

"If that country says you may not have a party beyond 02:00 ... Certain laws you would have to work within," he said.

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