President Hage Geingob this week remembered the late Cuban leader, Fidel Castro, by reflecting on the Cubans’ role in the historic Battle of Cuito Cuanavale in Angola, widely regarded as the hammer blow that broke the back of South African military aggression and forced the apartheid regime to the negotiation table.
The Battle of Cuito Cuanavale in 1989 turned the tide against the invading South African army and proved to be their Waterloo.
Geingob said Cuban internationalist forces combined with Angolan forces and Swapo’s military wing, the People’s Liberation Army of Namibia (Plan), stood united and together defeated the forces of apartheid.
“The 1989 battle was as much about ideology as it was about the survival of all the parties involved, as South Africa represented a retrogressive ideology,” recalled Geingob, who was among tens of thousands of Namibian exiles in those years.
He said it was a watershed moment in the southern African liberation struggle and in the fight for Namibian independence, as it led to the implementation of United Nations Security Council Resolution 435, which paved the way for Namibia’s independence in 1990.
In short, he said the unwavering commitment of Fidel Castro, who died on Friday aged 90, to Namibia’s freedom greatly advanced the destruction of apartheid in Namibia. “True to his revolutionary heart, Castro had no interest other than the liberation of the oppressed,” President Geingob noted.
He said Castro had no interest in the vast natural resources of a free Namibia, as unlike many others the Cubans did not come to Africa to collect gold or diamonds, only the remains of their fallen comrades.
He added that after Namibia’s independence, Castro ordered that Namibia continue to benefit from Cuban doctors and other professionals, for which he declined any monetary compensation from Namibia to Cuba.
“May the Cuban people feel consoled by the knowledge that Castro lived his life in service of the oppressed and for the self-determination of the Americas and Africa,” he said.
“His name will be entered in the annals of history as one of the greatest leaders of our epoch.”
Geingob said Fidel Castro taught them that one may compromise on anything, except on one’s principles.
“Our own victories and losses in the struggle for our independence against apartheid South Africa are inextricably linked to the international solidarity of the Cuban people through diplomatic, military, and people-to-people interface,” he said.
Responding to the news of Castro’s death founding president Sam Nujoma on Sunday said: “I received with grief the sad news of the passing on of the legendary revolutionary leader and Founder of the Cuban Revolution, El Commandant Fidel Castro Ruz, at the age of 90 years old in Havana, Cuba.
“The death of El Commandant… came after I paid him a courtesy call at his residence on 28 September 2016 during my official visit to the Republic of Cuba. I, therefore, join the entire world to pay my tribute to a fallen hero, a charismatic and visionary revolutionary leader of our time… who has earned his place in modern history by his strong stance against imperialism and exceptional resilience against colonialism and oppression all over the world.
“His revolutionary and tireless efforts to help free the oppressed people all over the world has left indelible footprints, which will be difficult to match. For this reason, we shall forever remain grateful for the all-round political, diplomatic and material support rendered to the struggling people of Namibia, including in the fields of education and health, by the revolutionary people of Cuba under the wise and able leadership of Commandant Fidel Castro Ruz, and salute their selfless sacrifices…” Nujoma said.
“Most importantly, we are left with fond memories of the unprecedented and major role played by the revolutionary people of Cuba under the wise and able leadership of Commandant Fidel Castro Ruz for the total liberation of southern African, especially at the decisive Battle of Cuito Cuanavale, where the white minority regime of South Africa was defeated and forced to the negotiation table by the combined Angolan FAPLA forces with the Cuban internationalist forces and the combatants of the People’s Liberation Army of Namibia (PLAN), Swapo’s military wing,” he stated.
In the conclusion to his tribute to the late Cuban leader, President Geingob – who will travel to Havana, Cuba on Tuesday to attend a memorial service in honour of late Castro – wrote: “May the Cuban people feel consoled by the knowledge that Comandante-en-Jefe Fidel Castro Ruz lived his life in service of the oppressed and for the self-determination of the Americas and Africa…
“The legacy of Fidel will live on. May his revolutionary spirit continue to underwrite and inspire the progressive forces to continue demanding economic justice and shared prosperity in an equitable world order.”