Decorated former chief of the Namibian Defence Force Martin Shalli has strongly dispelled claims that no Namibians were involved in the historic battle of Cuito Cuanavale, which compelled the apartheid regime towards talks that led to Namibia’s independence.
Shalli, who was also a commander of the People’s Liberation Army of Namibia (PLAN), Swapo’s military wing, was speaking yesterday at the memorial service held in honour of fallen Cuban leader and Commander-in-Chief of the Cuban Revolution, Fidel Castro.
“Whether PLAN, Swapo or Namibia participated in the battle of Cuito Cuanavale or not, the answer is, yes of course we did,” a seemingly irritated Shalli said.
According to history the battle of Cuito Cuanavale comprised a series of engagements between the Cuban-backed forces, including PLAN and the Armed Forces for the Liberation of Angola (FAPLA) on the one side, and the apartheid-era South African Defence Force (SADF) and the National Union for the Total Independence of Angola (UNITA) on the other side.
Speaking at the same event President Hage Geingob said Cuito Cuanavele 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.
“The high stakes battle of Cuito Cuanavale is yet another example of Fidel’s [Castro’s] unflinching belief in the liberation of the oppressed. Under his command, Cuba risked its own national security in order to repel apartheid South Africa,” said Geingob.
“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.”
“Fidel [Castro] described how thousands of courageous and tireless combatants from Namibia joined Angola and Cuban troops in this battle of ideology,” he added.
Geingob said there is no other man who exemplifies the spirit of sacrifice more than Castro.
“Fidel lived his life in service of the oppressed and for the self-determination of the Americas and Africa.”
“He taught us that one can compromise on anything, except on one’s principles. His name will be entered in the annals of history as one of the greatest leaders of our epoch,” said Geingob.
“Today we stand here, as free and independent citizens because of this great leader. We are praising today, with our memories and with our prayers, a man whose outstanding human qualities changed the course of history for millions of oppressed people around the world,’’ said Geingob.
He added that although Namibia has forgiven her enemies, its citizens would never forget their friends “who stood by us during difficult times”.
“Therefore, Cuban people are our friends. Fidel is our friend. Now and forever. Even in death, he will remain our hero,” he said.
“At this juncture, we express our thanks to US President Barack Obama and his administration for taking the bold and noble step in initiating the United States-Cuban thaw, which opened the door for the restoration of full diplomatic relations between the Republic of Cuba and the United States of America after 54 years of hostility between the two nations,” said Geingob.
Geingob continued: “President Obama realized that if a certain course of action does not yield any positive results after more than 50 years, it calls for a change in approach.”
“We hope that the President-elect of the United States of America, Donald Trump, will build on the work of his predecessor and finally lift El Bloqueo,” he stated.
He said this would enable the people of the Republic of Cuba and the United States of America to live side by side in peace and harmony, sharing mutual respect, as in the case of the Namibian House.
Leader of the official opposition the DTA, McHenry Venaani, said in honouring the legacy of Castro, Namibia, Africa and the global community should not turn a blind eye to what is happening in Syria, Western Sahara and Palestine.