The bodies of the two South African Cuba-based medical students who drowned in a swimming pool in that country at the weekend, will be repatriated next week, the KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) department of health said on Wednesday.
KZN Health MEC Sibongiseni Dhlomo made the announcement during his visit to the grieving Ngeleka family at KwaNzimakwe, on the south coast of the province. Dhlomo was accompanied by a departmental chaplain and officials from the Ray Nkonyeni Local Municipality.
It is alleged the students Sibusiso Thanks Ngeleka and Sihle Cebo Makhaye, both aged 24, had been part of a group at a friend's birthday party when they drowned at a rented house.
Dhlomo said that Ngeleka's passing was particularly difficult for him as he "had known the student personally" and previously interacted with him on numerous occasions to resolve certain challenges regarding his studies.
He said that the death of any medical student – particularly those studying in Cuba – was always sad and a major setback for the affected families, community and the country.
"When these children are recruited, we prioritise those who are academically bright, but who also come from poor homes that cannot afford to pay for their studies. When they get into the programme we then expect a lot from them, including graduating and coming back to help the country to address the shortage of doctors," lamented Dhlomo.
"We also expect them to grow and develop themselves, their families and their communities. When you empower one child from a poor background, it actually means that their own children and future generations will not need bursaries.
"Similarly, we had hoped that these two will also come back and become notable members of the community. But now we are in mourning. We are in great pain, but our pain cannot compare to that which is felt by their families."
Dhlomo will also visit the Makhaye family. Their son was in the fifth year of his medical studies, at Umhlabuyalingana, north of KZN, this weekend.
- African News Agency (ANA)