South African medical student's body to be repatriated from Cuba in July

The body of SA medical student Sibusiso Qongqo will be repatriated from Cuba in July. (Supplied, Qongqo family)
The body of SA medical student Sibusiso Qongqo will be repatriated from Cuba in July. (Supplied, Qongqo family)
  • Eastern Cape Premier Oscar Mabuyane says Sibusiso Qongqo's body will head back home next month.
  • The Cofimvaba-born died from a pancreatic-related illness.
  • Due to the lockdown in South Africa, top bureaucrats were battling to repatriate the remains for over a month.

The body of fifth year South African medical student Sibusiso Qongqo, stuck in Cuba for over a month, will be repatriated on 2 July when the rest of his medical student peers return to the country to complete their in-service training.

The announcement was made by Eastern Cape Premier Oscar Mabuyane on Thursday.

READ | Family distraught as body of SA medical student still in Cuba due to lockdown

He was also meant to return to start an in-service training stint at a local hospital having completed his studies abroad, his family told News24.

He died on 29 April, two days after falling sick from a pancreatic-related illness.

Qongqo left South Africa in 2015 with a group of other medical students who were part of the Nelson Mandela/Fidel Castro Medical Collaboration Programme and was due to return in July to begin the two years of in-service training.

He had completed his studies abroad.

Due to the lockdown in South Africa, where planes were grounded and port of entries closed, the initial attempts by the South African Embassy in Cuba and the Department of International Relations and Cooperation (Dirco) to repatriate the body, failed.

'Sharing our pain'

On Thursday, Mabuyane said: "We are working with Dirco, the Defence Force so that his remains are brought back on the 2nd of July. On the 29th [of June] there is going to be a flight going to Cuba, [operated] by the South African Defence Force to bring home those who are finishing their programme [medicines] there and bring home the mortal remains of Sibusiso Qongqo."

"As the sixth administration we cannot fail the spirit of the young generation to lead a better life; as provincial government working with the national government, we are working very hard to bring the mortal remains of Sibusiso Qongqo," said Mabuyane.

"We were trying to better the life of Sibusiso and his family when we gave him an opportunity to go to Cuba and study medicine. He was on his fifth year, unfortunately [when] his untimely death became (sic)."

His brother Azola Qongqo said: "The family accepts government's commitment and we're happy that they are sharing our pain with us. We really hope they come through and not disappoint us like they have previously done so."

The ANC in the Eastern Cape has welcomed Mabuyane's announcement with the party's provincial spokesperson Gift Ngqondi saying the ANC would give the necessary support to the Qongqo family.

Ngqondi said: "We have been assured by Premier that there was an engagement with national government and the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) will fetch the remains of Sibusiso Qongqo in order for the family to give him a dignified funeral service."

Mabuyane thanked the Cuban government for taking care of Qongqo's remains for over a month, saying they did so despite their cultural beliefs dictating that a body be kept only for three days.

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