WATCH | Dirco investigating after SA students in Cuba manhandled by police

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  • The Department of International Relations and Cooperation is investigating a confrontation between Cuban police and South African students.
  • Students said the incident occurred at residence in Santa Clara. 
  • Dirco said it was in the process of verifying the video. 

The Department of International Relations and Cooperation (Dirco) is investigating a confrontation between Cuban police and a group of South African medical students living there.

In a video widely circulating on social media, a group of students are seen being manhandled by the Cuban authorities. The students said the incident occurred at a hostel in Santa Clara. 

"The students were having a birthday celebration inside the hostels and someone complained about the noise and called the cops on them," the students said. 

The students added:

Instead on shutting down the music, the students were beaten.


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 short video clip, while officers dragged another man away, amidst loud screams of protests.

Other videos circulating on social media, depict the moments prior to the Cuba police officers storming into the building.

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

Speaking under condition of anonymity, one medical student said they had been left in shock. 

He added that police did not make any arrests during the incident, but added that many were left angry, scared and vulnerable.

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

"We don’t know why the police were like that," one student complained. 

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 is to address the shortage of medical practitioners in historically disadvantaged areas, as well as improve human resource workforce capacity and strengthen the health care system in South Africa.

Dirco said it was trying to verify the video. 

In a brief statement, the department said it was working with Cuban authorities to get to the bottom of what had happened. 

"The South African government is aware of the video circulating on social media purporting to involve South African students in Cuba. The Department of International Relations and Cooperation is working with relevant authorities to investigate the situation."


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