President Hage Geingob on Tuesday delivered arguably his best speech on the international stage yet, describing Cuban revolutionary leader Fidel Castro as a man who died on his own terms.
Castro, 90, survived hundreds of assassination attempts, most of them sponsored by the CIA of the USA which attempted to terminate the Cuban leader’s communist influence.
Even with the fall of the influence of global communism, due in large part to the collapse of the Soviet Union in the early 1990s, Castro’s revolutionary fortitude passed the litmus test.
Geingob, who unselfishly shelved his official visit to Europe temporarily to attend Castro’s funeral in Havana, Cuba, was full of praise for the fallen giant of the fight against African colonialism. Geingob, himself a freedom fighter, witnessed all Cuban assistance that poured into Swapo’s fight against apartheid South Africa and her capitalist sponsors.
The Namibian head of state, speaking in Havana during a funeral televised live to millions of viewers across the globe, said even in death Castro will remain a great teacher and source of inspiration.
“What is the price of freedom? What is the cost of liberating a nation? How much do you pay a country which fought for you when others were allies to your enemy?” Geingob wanted to know when he took to the podium.
“According to Fidel, helping with the liberation of the oppressed should never be for economic gain, but only to gain in conscience.”
“That is why we are here. We are here in good conscience to bid farewell to a man whose legacy will never die and to honour a country whose debt we can never repay,” Geingob said, to endless rounds of applause.
Founding President Sam Nujoma, leader of the Namibian revolution, and former President Hifikepunye Pohamba also attended the funeral in Cuba.
Also in attendance were Swapo Secretary General Nangolo Mbumba, two decorated military officers of the People’s Liberation Army of Namibia (PLAN), which was Swapo’s military wing and a survivor of the Cassinga massacre. Cuban forces were the first to arrive at Cassinga to help rescue thousands of refugees under South African attack on May 4, 1978.
“It was in our defence in which Cuban soldiers lost their lives and limbs,” Geingob told the world.
“After the attack, Cuba was the first country to provide education facilities at the Island of Youth for [3 000] surviving children of the Cassinga massacre.”
Geingob said the high stakes battle of Cuito Cuanavale, revered as much by freedom fighters as hated by advocates of apartheid, is yet another example of Castro’s unflinching belief in the liberation of the oppressed, Geingob reckoned.
“Under his command, Cuba risked its own national security in order to repel apartheid South Africa. Defeat at Cuito Cuanavale would have been defeat for all the oppressed people of Southern Africa and victory to racist South Africa and the imperialism they represented.”
Cuito Cuanavale was a watershed for Southern Africa in general but particularly for Namibia as it led to the implementation of United Nations Security Council Resolution 435.
“This culminated in Namibian independence in 1990. The blood of Cuban fighters indeed waters our freedom,” the President said.
“True to his revolutionary heart, Castro had no interest other than the liberation of our people. He had no interest in the vast natural resources of a free Namibia and his view was that Cubans did not come to collect gold or diamonds, all they wanted was to return the remains of their fallen comrades.”
“While we have forgiven our enemies, we will never forget our friends. The Cuban people are our friends. Fidel is our friend. Now and forever.”
Diplomatic ties between Namibia and Cuba crossed into the post-independence era of the African nation, with Cuba sending hundreds of doctors, nurses and pharmacists who currently work in Namibian hospitals and clinics.
“We still have a lot to learn from a man who lived, and died, on his own terms,” Geingob said.
“In this moment, when global politics are no longer clear cut, when alliances are falling apart when people are losing faith, it is in this moment that we need the razor sharp clarity of mind and purpose which characterized the life of Fidel Castro. Hasta la victoria siempre!”
“May his revolutionary spirit consume all of us so we may continue to resist neo-colonialism and remain united,” he said.
Geingob was expected to arrive in the UK last night to honour his scheduled meetings with Queen Elizabeth, Prince Andrew, British Minister for Africa and the Middle East, Tobias Ellwood, and investors.