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Tue Jul 29, 2014, 02:38 PM

What we've learnt from Cuba - Marius Fransman

What we've learnt from Cuba - Marius Fransman

Marius Fransman
28 July 2014

ANC WCape leader notes that the Masakha iSizwe - build the nation initiatve has produced incredible results

Article by Marius Fransman, ANC Provincial Chairperson Western Cape on the occasion of the 61st Anniversary of the storming of the Moncado Barracks, Havanna, Cuba


On the occasion of the 38th anniversary of the storming of the Moncada Barracks, Mandela met with Fidel Castro in Havanna in 1991, giving a historic speech alongside him entitled "How Far We Slaves Have Come" in which he highlighted the ‘special place' that Cuba has in the heart of the people of Africa saying: "From its earliest days, the Cuban Revolution has also been a source of inspiration to all freedom-loving people..". As we commemorate this 61st anniversary, we reflect on this special relationship and ask the question: How far will we slaves go?

The brave Cuban nation has demonstrated that they were prepared to go all the way. At the first Summit of Heads of State and Government of the Non-Aligned Summit in Belgrade in September 1961, Cuban President Osvaldo Dorticos Torrado denounced apartheid. Attending the United Nations (UN) Conference on Trade and Development in Geneva in 1961, Che Guevara, the minister of industry, said that South Africa ‘violates the Charter of the United Nations by the inhuman and fascist policy of apartheid', and he called for South Africa's expulsion from the UN. Speaking at the 19th General Assembly of the UN in New York in December 1964, Guevara pointed to the UN's failure to act against apartheid.

Following the meeting of Che Guevarra with MK Commander-in-Chief Nelson Mandela in Algeria, the Cubans offered military support and training to the ANC and its cadres in exile. In 1977, Cubans began training African National Congress (ANC) cadres at Nova Catengue in Angola, instructing them in guerrilla warfare. After the camp was bombed by the South African Air Force, the camp was moved to the Quibaxe area of Kwanza Norte province. Since 1961 already Cuba began to receive students from the Republic of Guinea, Congo-Brazzaville and Mali, and in 1963 Cuba sent a team of medics to newly liberated Algeria. By 1999 more than 28,000 African students had graduated from educational institutions in Cuba, and more than 76,000 Cubans had served in Africa in some capacity or other.

Much has been written about Cuba's role in our liberation and the liberation struggle in Southern Africa and the rest of our continent. The Cubans fought bravely side by side with freedom fighters in a number of African states. In Angola they fought in a number of battles such as Quifangodo, Cabinda, Ebo and other sites from 1976 to 1988. None were more graphic than the heroic tale of Cuito Cuanavale that ultimately led to routing the might of the Apartheid war machine and precipitated a negotiated settlement ‘forcing PW Botha and De Klerk to the table'.

Equally graphic is the tale of struggle of more than 36 000 gallant fighters who fought alongside us in Angola and the sacrifice of more than 2070 brave Cuban fighters who gave their lives for our freedom. When the edifice of the Apartheid state crumbled, the Cubans returned to their distant island home with only the clothes on their back and extracting no spoils of war or reward other in the annals of the brave and courageous.


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