Africa and Cuba:
union of sister peoples
• Raúl pays tribute to Mandela
in the funerary chapel, has a friendly meeting with
President Zuma and tours Freedom Park
PRETORIA, South Africa.— For the
Cuban delegation, December 12 was filled with
incomparable emotions. The first came early in the
morning when President Raúl Castro arrived at the
Union Building, the government headquarters in
Pretoria, to honor Nelson Mandela.
and President Zuma had an amicable
meeting which lasted for more than two
Four soldiers in gala military
uniform guarded the casket placed beneath an arch in
the building’s amphitheater. Raúl approached the
area solemnly, without haste; facing the casket he
halted for a few seconds, slightly inclined his head
as a sign of respect and then moved forward to bid
farewell to the man who was a close friend of Cuba.
The Cuban President then went to the
official residence of South African President Jacob
Zuma, with whom he had an amicable meeting lasting
more than two hours. They discussed aspects of
national events in both countries and those in the
two regions, as well as the close bonds of
friendship between South Africa and Cuba.
In an official statement to the
accredited press, the two leaders described their
talks as highly useful and fruitful, while
expressing their satisfaction at the way in which
relations between the two countries are developing.
President Zuma observed, "We devoted
time to talking about Fidel Castro and Nelson
Mandela, because we see them as our heroes."
He thanked Raúl for his kindness in
accompanying the people of South Africa at this
moment of mourning. "If Cuba, our old friend, had
not been here, we would have felt that someone very
special was missing," he affirmed. Zuma also
expressed gratitude to the Cuban people and its
leadership for the significant role the country
played in Africa. The Cuban President said he was
pleased to confirm, once again, that relations
between Cuba and South Africa are continuing and
"We are blood brothers and sisters,
whatever the color of our skin. Cuba is part of
Africa, and Africa is part of Cuba and the
Caribbean," he stated.
CUBA IN FREEDOM PARK
The day continued to be one of
respect and shared history, when the Cuban President
moved on to Freedom Park, an impressive site
dedicated to those who fought in the struggles for
A long spiral walkway leads to the
top of the hill where the monument is located. At
its entrance, Raúl was received by Regardt Gouws,
director of the complex; Mongane Wally Serote,
creator of the work; and other directors.
There, in front of the impressive
wall on which more than 80,000 names of those who
gave up their lives for independence are engraved,
personnel from the Cuban embassy and a group of
cooperative workers in South Africa were awaiting
Raúl. Beside them and in the name of the people of
Cuba, he placed a wreath and honored the Cuban and
African combatants who died in liberation struggles
throughout the African continent.
It is a genuinely moving place.
Reading there, carefully engraved on the wall, the
names of more than 2,000 Cubans who lost their lives
in these lands, brings to mind unforgettable
passages of the homeland, passages of honor and
glory, but also infinitely sad.
"The monument is a way of
emancipating ourselves, of making heard our voice as
South Africans. We want everyone who comes to visit
this place to feel reflected in the men and women
whose names appear here," one of the monumental
complex guides, Jane Mufamandi, commented to Raúl.
She also explained that for them, one of the most
significant aspects of the park is that it is a
legacy left by Nelson Mandela, given that he was the
person who strongly promoted the idea, achieving its
opening during his presidency.
"He wanted us to have a place
dedicated to our people, where the heroes and
heroines who fought to bring dignity to South
Africans, to give a voice to Africa, are represented."
"It is a great work which
demonstrates the magnitude of the struggle of this
people over centuries," commented Raúl. "In Cuba, we
have constructed modest monuments in cemeteries in
those municipalities where Cubans who died in
African battles lived."
While Raúl signed the monumental
complex visitors’ book, Jane Mufamandi stated, "The
battle of Cuito Cuanavale is one of the many reasons
for which we are always going to honor Cuba." For
his part, the President recalled, "We came to have
tens of thousands of Cuban soldiers in Cuito
Cuanavale, as well as modern aviation, artillery and
latest generation tanks."
In a few, heartfelt words he wrote,
"It is moving to visit to this site, which preserves
for future generations the memory of the victims of
colonialism, slavery and apartheid and the just
tribute to African and Cuban combatants who gave
offered up their lives in the struggle for the
liberation of Africa. I pay tribute to the memory of
all of them, in the name of the people of Cuba."
Immediately thereafter, he moved to
stand before the eternal flame lighted in honor of
those who also lost their lives but have not as yet
been identified, as the guide explained to him,
assuring him that investigations will continue.
Before the flame, he also conversed
with Mongane Wally Serote, the monument artist and a
man who has visited and admired Cuba on a number of
Thus concluded President Raúl
Castro’s activities on December 12, leaving the
unquestionable certainty that the destiny of the two
peoples is entwined for ever.
OTHER BILATERAL MEETINGS
In the afternoon, the Cuban
President and First Secretary of the Communist Party
of Cuba received in the Cuban ambassador’s residence
Blade Nzimande, general secretary of the South
African Communist Party and Minister of Higher
Also present were Solly Mapaila,
second deputy secretary of the South African
Communist Party; and Sibongile Mncwabe, head of the
General Secretary’s Office. The President
subsequently met with members of the African
National Congress (ANC) leadership.
Participating was Baleka Mbete, ANC
national coordinator; and Zweli Mkhizie, general
treasurer. In both meetings, Raúl was accompanied by
Foreign Minister Bruno Rodríguez Parrilla and
Fernández de Cossío, the Cuban ambassador in South