Pandor slams 'whingeing' MPs who criticised nomination of Cuban medics for Nobel prize

04 March 2021 - 21:21
Naledi Pandor says the decision to nominate the Cuban medical brigade was widely praised by the international community.
Naledi Pandor says the decision to nominate the Cuban medical brigade was widely praised by the international community.
Image: Sunday Times / Simphiwe Nkwali

International relations and co-operation minister Naledi Pandor has issued a fiery broadside to MPs opposed to the nomination of the Cuban medical brigade for the 2021 Nobel Peace Prize for its contribution in fighting against the Covid-19 pandemic around the world.

The proposed nomination sparked controversy in February, with some political parties arguing SA had failed to honour its own.

But Pandor on Thursday told parliament that the sentiments were unnecessary and selfish.

“I must say, I am really quite disgusted at the whingeing and whining when we should be celebrating the support that our country received in this massive battle against Covid-19. Colleagues are not asking themselves the reasons SA has had in avoiding a high level of deaths and infections that we are seeing in many countries around the world. It is a support that the government correctly got from the people of Cuba and from professionals in Cuba that have made a contribution to where we are today, at level 1.

“So I think let's just stop the whingeing and whining and acknowledge the important contribution that the multidisciplinary team, not just doctors, of professionals from Cuba made in SA,” she said.

Pandor said the decision to nominate the medical brigade was taken by the cabinet and was widely praised by the international community.

Cuba sent out 3,700 medical professionals around the world to fight the pandemic, including more than 200 who are now in SA.

However, it did not take away from the important work SA health workers did, she said.

“It does not in any way detract from our thanks and appreciation for the supreme role for our health-care workers in SA and other front-line workers who played an important role in combating this,” she said.

The role of the Cuban doctors in fighting Covid-19 in SA was debated in the National Assembly after an application by ANC MP Skhumbuzo Mpanza.

EFF MP Dr Suzan Thembekwayo was among those who hailed the arrival of Cuban doctors, particularly the role they played in remote areas including the Eastern Cape.

“Cuba is a friend not only to SA but the entire African continent. We appreciate the assistance that is being given not only to SA but from Angola to Cape Verde and to many other parts of the world, because Cuba has always proven that socialist solidarity is the way to go,” said Thembekwayo.

IFP MP Nared Singh had a different opinion, arguing that if anyone deserved a Nobel prize it was SA’s health workers who had succumbed to the virus.  

'Let us not forget that 400 South African medical personnel including nurses and health-care workers perished from Covid-19. So, while we laud the contribution of Cuban doctors, we must also note the losses of these members in SA, and if there has to be a Nobel peace prize nomination, surely we must consider all these people in our country as a unit that lost their lives,” he said.

DA MP Evelyn Wilson echoed similar sentiments, adding that the Cuban doctors were costing the country billions in taxpayer money. Wilson described the debate as “very confusing” and lacking factual information.  

Responding to Wilson, Mpanza said the DA needed to re-evaluate its political conscience.

Pandor took a swipe at the critics and urged South Africans to support the nomination.

 

“This recognition is pursued alongside our immense gratitude to our health-care workers, and I think to seek to divide and rule by suggesting we don't appreciate our own health-care workers is merely selfish and does not take us anywhere.

“We call on all South Africans to support this process and recognise the humane agenda driven by Cuba.”

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