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Thu May 26 20:25:45 SAST 2016

Medicos preach in Cuba

Nathi Olifant | 22 January, 2016 00:23
HEAD SPACE: KwaZulu-Natal MEC for Health Sibongiseni Dhlomo addressed the media yesterday about his intervention with South African medical students who are studying in Cuba
Image by: THULI DLAMINI

KwaZulu-Natal MEC for health Sibongiseni Dhlomo wants nothing to do with a Pietermartizburg pastor who has allegedly lured medical students in Cuba away from their studies.

Dhlomo flew to Cuba three weeks ago following a complaint by the SA health attaché there that a Pietermaritzburg pastor's influence on about 150 medical students from KwaZulu-Natal was having a negative effect on their studies.

Dhlomo said yesterday that one of the students, a KwaZulu-Natal woman, was in hospital and appeared to be "mentally unwell", allegedly after engaging in a series of religious devotions by Pastor Sipho Maduna of the Threshing Floor Bible Church.

However, Dhlomo said there was no evidence to suggest that her condition stemmed from church activities.

"We are awaiting the doctors' report," he said.

Directed by the provincial cabinet and the premier early this month, Dhlomo flew to Cuba following a complaint by South Africa's health attaché, Major-General Mokgethi Radebe, in Cuba that some students spent long hours on church activities.

"Our concern and fear was that seven hours a day for a week was quite a long time to be dedicated to such activities by medical students as it might compromise their preparation time for their studies," he said.

Before he left for Cuba, Dhlomo established that Maduna, from Pietermaritzburg, had visited Cuba to baptise converted students.

"He preached and anointed students as pastors, prophets and evangelists, doing all this in violation of the visa rules, as he had entered Cuba as a tourist having not procured a work permit. Those anointed now go out of campuses and preach on street corners, trying to convert Cubans," Dhlomo said.

Dhlomo said he had not met Maduna, but had met a group of church leaders, led by ANC MPL Bishop Vusi Dube on Wednesday night and yesterday.

The church's spokesman Ntokozo Biyela confirmed that Maduna went to Cuba in September last year after receiving an invitation from the students.

Biyela said the church's five branches had raised about R60000 for the trip.

He denied that Maduna was the cause of the students' woes.

"We do not have members of our church currently studying in Cuba," said Biyela.

Dube said church leaders would meet in two weeks.

"We will decide on what steps to take [against Maduna]. He has not honoured our previous invitations and has not replied to our correspondence."

There are more than 3000 medical students from South Africa in Cuba, with 850 expected to return to practise in South Africa by 2018.

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