- By Sikhumbuzo Zondi
By and large Fidel Castro produced a revolution that led to many revolutionaries across Latin America and Africa. The el commandant played a huge role in liberating Southern Africa from the forces of apartheid. As soon as Cuba was free from the dictatorship of Batista following a successful revolution of 1959, it opened its doors to freedom fighters from Latin America and Africa to receive guerilla training and assistance to further their path to liberation (Jacob Zuma Interviewed on SABC News, 26 November 2016).
Castro’s military intervention in Angola helped the leftist leadership of Agostinho Neto who led the People’s Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA) that was established as an offshoot of the Angolan Communist Party, defeat the National Liberation Front of Angola (NFLA), National Union for the Total Independence of Angola (UNITA) and apartheid South Africa. Fidel Castro personally engineered the strategy at Cuito Cuanavale in 1988 where 36 000 Cuban forces defeated the South African army so resolutely that not only did they withdraw from Angola but Namibia also achieved its independence (BBC News, 26 November 2016).
Deputy chair of the African Union Commission Erastus Mwencha states that Cuba under Castro has been closely associated with Africa’s development. Cuba has offered medical assistance and trained a number of doctors from the continent. And most recently, when West Africa was battling the Ebola virus, Cuba was one of those countries, challenged as it was under sanctions, which still managed to send medical teams to help the countries that were battered by the Ebola virus. He concluded that, Cuba has been standing and working with Africa throughout the independence period, up to the development era (Erastus Mwencha Interviewed on Voice of America News, 28 November, 2016).
The current president of South Africa Jacob Zuma describes Castro as a brave and charismatic leader full of ideas, energetic, analytical and well-informed. Castro was often preoccupied with analyzing the global balance of forces and how countries of the global south need to equip themselves. Castro was also consumed with discussing the socio-political landscape of Latin America especially in uniting the region particularly small island states in terms of cooperation and development diplomacy. President Zuma further inserted that Castro instilled a sense of internationalism within the Cuban society and spent most of his life defending the global poor. Cuba was the only country in the world to truly demonstrate a deep sense of internationalism given its size and the challenges it faced as a result of decades of US trade embargo (Jacob Zuma Interview on SABC News, 26 November 2016).
Accordingly, former South African president Thabo Mbeki described the passing away of Fidel Castro as a sad loss of a gigantic figure particularly for those who were engaged in the revolutionary struggle but also a loss for everyone because of his prolonged illness. Castro according to Mbeki was an inspirational figure who was highly involved in South Africa’s liberation struggle. He demonstrated his support by working closely with the military cadres in Angola to topple apartheid forces. He states that over the years Cuban citizens showed a strong attachment to Castro due to what he accomplished. Firstly by removing the repressive Batista regime, secondly by resisting the American pressures and really to say to his people “you Cubans have got the right to determine your destiny and you must do that. Which is why Americans always failed to remove the Cuban government or to do all the bad things that they wanted to do there. It’s all because the Cuban people fully rallied behind the leadership that was provided by Castro and the likes'' (Thabo Mbeki Interview on SABC News, 26 November 2016).
In addition, Angolan president Jose Eduardo dos Santos considered the late Cuban leader, as an extraordinary figure of great historical importance. At the same time president Hage Geingob of Namibia said, the Cuban deployment of Cuito Cuanavale was the watershed moment in Southern African liberation. The ANC veteran, Mac Maharaj indicated that Southern African freedom is inseparably intertwined with the history of Cuba. He further added that, Fidel became a huge inspiration to all liberation forces and there is an unshakable bond between Cuba and the Southern African struggle (News 24, 27 November, 2016). Ordinary people on the streets of Luanda such as Pedro Nulasco described Castro as the “Son of Africa”, who’s passing left a gap and emptiness because he helped a lot in his country Angola (Africa news, 27 November 2016).
In 1959 following the success of the revolution, Castro began political, social and economic transformation of Cuba and this transformation laid the foundation for future criticisms. As such his critics often accuse him of driving his country into economic ruin. Others also described him as a brutal dictator whose revolutionary regime failed to transform to a civilian government (CCTV News, 27 November, 2016). All in all, Africans have spoken and we hope Cuba will continue his legacy of fighting for global socio-economic equality and the liberation of all marginalized people. We also hope that the normalization of US-Cuba relations which began under outgoing president Obama will continue under the new leadership of president-elect Donald Trump.
La Lucha Continúa (The struggle Continues)!!!
Mr. Sikhumbuzo Zondi is a DST-NRF research intern at the Institute for Global Dialogue associated with UNISA. The views expressed are his own, unless stated otherwise.
Africanews, 27 November 2016, Angolans remember Fidel Castro call him "son of Africa", story by Dibie Ike Michael, available at: http://www.africanews.com/2016/11/27/angolans-remember-fidel-castro-call-him-son-of-africa/
BBC News, 26 November 2016, Fidel Castro's legacy: 'True to his convictions', From the section Latin America & Caribbean, available at: http://www.bbc.com/news/world-latin-america-20121342
CCTV News, Sunday, 27 November 2016, Castro’s Legacy, Dialogue: Ideas Matter.
News24, 27 November 2016, Angola: Fidel Castro’s big African Adventure, available at: http://www.news24.com/africa/news/angola-fidel-castros-big-african-adventure-20161127
SABC News, Saturday, 26 November 2016, SABC News Interview with Jacob Zuma on the Legacy of Fidel Castro, available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OUcmi2RwZpQ
SABC News, Saturday, 26 November 2016, SABC News Interview with Thabo Mbeki on the Legacy of Fidel Castro, available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vzgx8M-_AcA
Voice of America News, 28 November, 2016, African Union Official Remembers Fidel Castro, story by James Butty, available at: http://www.voanews.com/a/african-union-official-remembers-fidel-castro/3614180.html