Photo: Prensa Latina

Cuba and South Africa highlighted their strong ties of friendship and the excellent level of bilateral and multilateral cooperation, following an official visit to the African nation by Salvador Valdés Mesa, a vice president of the Cuban Council of State.

Valdés Mesa, also a member of the Communist Party of Cuba Political Bureau, who arrived on Tuesday, January 31, on his first official visit to South Africa, held high-level meetings with government officials and leaders of the African National Congress (ANC), and other political organizations of the ruling Triple Alliance.

The Cuban politician and his counterpart and host, South African Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa, held official talks on February 1st. In a subsequent joint statement to the press, Valdés Mesa noted his appreciation for the warm welcome received in this sister nation and highlighted aspects of the historic ties between the two peoples, as well as the progress of cooperation, which is today expanding across various sectors.

Meanwhile, Ramaphosa stressed that South Africa and Cuba enjoy a very special relationship, not only in the political sphere, due to the island’s contribution during the anti-apartheid struggle, but also in the social sphere, especially in the field of health.

Prior to the meeting, the Cuban leader was received by President Jacob Zuma, who wished him a productive stay.

Zuma also referred to Valdés Mesa’s participation in the recently held 28th African Union Summit, in Addis Abeba, Ethiopia, to which Cuba attended as a guest country.

The visit, which concluded this Thursday, February 2, included a tour of the Bheki Mlangeni Hospital, which opened in April 2015 in the populous residential area of Soweto, where the Cuban official spoke with workers and patients.

On his arrival at the health center, accompanied by his delegation and the Cuban Ambassador in Pretoria, Carlos Fernández de Cossío, Valdés Mesa was welcomed by the Deputy Health Minister, Joe Phaahla, administrative staff, and members of the Cuban Medical Mission in South Africa.

The deputy minister explained that this district hospital has helped relieve the pressures on other health care facilities in this township, with a population of around two million.

Phaahla expressed gratitude for the presence of Cuban doctors, whose efforts he described as “excellent'” and worthy of mention, as they are ready to go wherever they are most needed, “where health services are deficient.”

Valdés Mesa extended the recognition of the Cuban government to the health collaborators, and encouraged them to continue advancing in their efforts. More than 600 Cuban professionals are currently offering their services in South Africa, he noted, of which some 400 are doctors.

He also referred to the young South Africans currently studying medicine in Cuba, 700 of whom will graduate next year and return to their homeland to implement the knowledge acquired.

On February 1, the vice president of the Council of State paid tribute to the late ANC leader Oliver Tambo, and participated in a meeting with staff of the Cuban Embassy, where a room of the building was named after this beloved African leader.

Valdés Mesa is heading a delegation that includes Gerardo Peñalver, director general of Bilateral Affairs of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Cuba; Ángel Villa, director of the Ministry’s Sub-Saharan Africa Office; and Brigadier General Arnaldo Tamayo Méndez, Hero of the Republic of Cuba. This Thursday, February 2, the delegation will continue their tour of African nations traveling to Maputo, Mozambique.