The government realised there was a shortage of medical practitioners in rural areas where primary health care was sensitive. After consultations, a three years' contract was signed between the two countries, regulating the temporary import of Cuban medical practitioners to relieve the situation. One of the main drawcards of Cuba's approach is its achievement in primary healthcare and proactive disease prevention in a country with a large rural population. The World Health Organisation estimated that Africa had 25% of the world’s disease burden but only 1.3% of its healthcare professionals. Compounding this problem is an annual emigration of about 20 000 African doctors and nurses who leave the continent for greener pastures.
Robert Sobukwe, politician, activist and first president of the Pan Africanist Congress, died on 27 February 1978 at the age of 54.
Sobukwe died of lung complications after having been hospitalised in 1977. His medical doctors requested that he should be granted freedom of movement on humanitarian grounds, as he was banned to Galeshewe Township, Kimberley, but authorities turned it down. PAC members now celebrate the day as Sobukwe day. He was born in Graaff-Reinet in the Cape on December 5, 1924. His father was a farm worker and his mother had no formal education. Sobukwe won a scholarship to the Methodist boarding school at Healdtown in the Eastern Cape, and later enrolled at Fort Hare University. It was here that he joined the ANC Youth League in 1948. The organisation was established on campus by Godfrey Pitje, who later became its president. In 1949, Sobukwe was elected president of the Fort Hare Students' Representative Council, where he proved himself to be a good orator. In 1950, Sobukwe was appointed as a teacher at a high school in Standerton, a position he lost when he spoke out in favour of the Defiance Campaign in 1952. He was later reinstated. During this period he was not directly involved with mainstream ANC activities, but still held the position of secretary of the organization’s branch in Standerton. In 1954, after moving to Johannesburg, Sobukwe became a lecturer of African Studies at the University of the Witwatersrand. He edited The Africanist and soon began to criticise the ANC for allowing itself to be dominated by what he termed “liberal-left-multi-racialists”. The “Prof”, as his friends called him, was a charismatic speaker, and in 1958 he helped initiate a breakaway from the ANC, resulting in the birth of the Pan Africanist Congress. On March 21, 1960, at the launch of the PAC anti-pass campaign, he resigned as a teacher. He made arrangements for the safety of his family and left his home in Molofo. He intended to give himself up for arrest at the Orlando police station in the hope that his actions would inspire others. On the 8km walk to the police station, small groups of men joined him from neighbouring areas like Phefeni, Dube and Orlando West. As the small crowd approached the station most of them, including Sobukwe, were arrested. He was sentenced to three years in prison. Then Parliament enacted a General Law Amendment Act, which empowered the Minister of Justice to prolong the detention of any political prisoner indefinitely. Subsequently, he was moved to Robben Island, staying for an additional six years. After his release in 1969, Sobukwe joined his family in Kimberley but remained under 12-hour house arrest. He was also restricted from any political activity as a result of a banning order imposed on the PAC. During his incarceration Sobukwe obtained an Honours Degree in Economics from the University of London, and began studying Law. He completed his articles in Kimberley, and established his own law firm in 1975. Although he was offered several teaching posts at American universities, he was prevented from going overseas by the government. Sobukwe died on February 27, 1978, of lung complications after having been hospitalised in 1977. His medical doctors requested that he should be granted freedom of movement on humanitarian grounds, as he was banned to Galeshewe Township, Kimberley, but the authorities turned it down. PAC members now celebrate the day as Sobukwe day.