Free State medical student stabbed to death in Cuba
A Free State medical student based in Cuba has been stabbed to death, allegedly by locals, while on a night out on the town with fellow students.
The "alcohol-related" attack on the three students took place just before midnight on December 28, national health department spokesperson Popo Maja confirmed to News24 on Tuesday.
He said the man, in his early twenties, had been a 2nd-year-student based at the Latin American Medical School (ELAM). His identity is known to News24.
The attack happened at the Baracoa restaurant/bar, in the town next to the medical school.
Maja could not provide further details, but said the department was confident the attack would be thoroughly investigated.
It is understood that the three students decided to meet up with other students after a day of eating and drinking.
A local man allegedly hit the Free State student in the face and he apparently returned the blow.
When they tried to get off the street and into the bar, security guards allegedly refused to let them in because they believed "South Africans were always involved in fights".
Their pleading fell on deaf ears and they had to return to the street.
It is understood that three Cuban men armed themselves with bottles before attacking them.
The Free State student was hit on the head with a bottle and lay motionless on the ground. His friend covered his body to protect him from the blows and was stabbed in the arm.
The student was taken to hospital with a stab wound to the chest. Doctors tried to save him, but it was too late.
It is understood that authorities had arrested three men in connection with the murder.
The family was "shocked and deeply saddened" by their son’s untimely death, said Maja.
A memorial service was held in Cuba. His body was expected to be returned to South Africa later on Tuesday or Wednesday.
The department expressed its heartfelt condolences to his family, friends and colleagues.
"As a country, his death has robbed us of a potential doctor in our endeavours to close the critical scarce medical professional skills gap," said Maja.
"Whenever we send these compatriots to Cuba, it is our wish to see them return to the service of their country and their people. To lose any of our students to death is too tragic to bear."