"Eternal glory to all those who fell in the fight against colonialism, racism and apartheid!"
Miguel Díaz-Canel Bermúdez, First Secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Cuba and President of the Republic, was in South Africa to attend the BRICS conference and on the first day there, August 23, visited Freedom Park to pay tribute to the Cuban internationalists who died fighting for Africa who are honoured there.
He also gave a powerful, moving tour-de-force speech which we have translated here from the Spanish in full:
In Cuba there is a song that says: Cuba how beautiful is Cuba./Whoever defends it wants it more, and that has a lot to do with you, because you love Cuba and that is why Cuba is more beautiful, because you defend it.
You do not know how much energy you give us with those beautiful songs that you make, with those powerful and beautiful voices that you have!
Dear President of the Freedom Park complex, Hlengiwe Mgabadelli;
Dear Executive Director of this resort, Jane Mufamadi;
Dear friends and leaders of the Cuban solidarity movement in South Africa, of the Tripartite Alliance, Mapaila, Mbalula, Luvuno, all of you;
Dear compatriots who serve as collaborators and dear Cubans residing in South Africa;
Dear friends and comrades;
In short, sisters and brothers:
On behalf of our people, I thank you for the warm welcome in South Africa and for your sincere expressions of support and solidarity towards Cuba.
We begin our visit today to this beautiful sister nation, which we arrived in only a few hours ago, paying tribute to the dear friend of Cuba Nelson Mandela and to the Cuban heroes fallen in the struggle for the liberation of Africa, and now we feel very excited sharing with you this impressive act.
It will always be an honor to visit the homeland of Nelson Mandela, Joe Slovo, Chris Hani, Oliver Tambo, Walter and Albertina Sisulu, Winnie Mandela and the huge plethora of heroes and heroines who suffered persecution, imprisonment, torture, humiliation and offenses, but never gave up the struggle for the dignity of their people and to bequeath to subsequent generations a new country, free from hatred and exclusion.
This meeting is very exciting because it takes place in the emblematic Freedom Park, a monumental complex full of symbolism, where we can feel that libertarian spirit of all those who fought for an Africa with no other owner than the Africans themselves and for a united and integrated South Africa, without inhuman divisions, without segregationism or humiliating racism.
Cuba cannot be just another visitor to Freedom Park, because this is also a place of tribute to the Cuban internationalists who put their lives at the service of a noble and just cause: the battles for the total decolonization of the African continent and for the end of the ignominious apartheid regime.
To them and to all the heroes of the deeds that are venerated here, we come to pay tribute to them as our first act on South African soil. Without heroism, without sacrifice, without the dedication of all those who have their names inscribed here, the history of this country and this continent would definitely be different and the world would not look at the new South Africa with the respect that it looks at it and that its people won by fighting for their rights that were violated for centuries.
For Cuba, which considers him a son, it means a lot to know that Che is one of the international leaders honored here and that Fidel's name was added in 2017 to the 2,288 Cuban fighters fallen in Africa honoured since the inauguration of the Park in 2012.
Fidel and Che are paradigms of Cuban internationalism and architects of our country's relations with Africa since the triumph of the Cuban Revolution.
More than once, in Fidel's voice, we proudly declared ourselves Latin Africans. And consistent with the recognition of that identity, the Government has promoted the active promotion of initiatives in favor of the peoples of this continent and in the defense of Africa in all possible scenarios.
The modest Cuban contribution that is recognized here, together with the thousands of compatriots who have worked in internationalist missions in Africa since 1963, has been and will continue to be a heartfelt and voluntary expression of interest in paying our debt to humanity, to that part of humanity from which we emerged as peoples devoted to freedom and human emancipation.
More than one million African children were taken to Cuba to be turned into slaves by force, who contributed distinctively to the Cuban genome and also contributed decisively to the formation of our identity as a people. Its ancestral culture, its religions, its customs pay strength, color, resistance and creativity to the powerful ajiaco that we are.
"All mixed together," said Nicolás Guillén, Cuba's national poet and personal friend of some of the most prominent African leaders he met in Paris or Havana.
As a result of the mixture of African slaves, European conquerors and Asian emigrants, the Cuban nationality is formed, in which we recognize an important contribution also of the heroism and consecration of those who shone on the battlefields for Cuban independence and against slavery in the nineteenth century. Africa is part of the essence of our nationality since then and also from the internationalist campaigns. Without their contributions before and after the shared battles, Cuba would not be what it is today, Cubans would not be what we are.
It should be recalled that since the triumph of the Cuban Revolution in 1959 the country actively supported the struggle against apartheid. Cuba firmly opposed the racist government of South Africa in international forums and came to confront them on the battlefield in defense of the independence and sovereignty of Angola.
Cuba denounced very early on the imprisonment of Nelson Mandela and his comrades, when the supposed champions of freedom and human rights of today classified them as terrorists.
How proud we Cubans are to read in Madiba's autobiography The Long March to Freedom, of when he was in prison he found inspiration in Fidel Castro, Che Guevara and the Cuban Revolution.
Since 1961, even before the Rivonia Trial, young South Africans from the anti-apartheid forces
began to arrive in Cuba to receive professional training in medicine and other sciences. It was the first group of many others who in the following decades would receive professional training and military training in Cuba.
It is also a source of great satisfaction to have contributed decisively to the end of apartheid with the victory in Cuito Cuanavale, in Angola, in 1988, an action that led to the change of the correlation of forces in Southern Africa by achieving – after intense quadripartite negotiations – the long-awaited independence of Namibia and sentencing the death of the opprobrious apartheid regime.
When it is said that Cuba's relations with Africa are bloody, it refers to two dimensions: the one that comes from the genes left by Africans and their descendants in Cuba and the one that is in the generous blood that we shed together to free Africa from colonialism and apartheid.
From the Caribbean, thousands of miles away from this beloved country, the noble and courageous Cuban people resist with the infinite courage and dignity bequeathed to us by our ancestors, facing colossal challenges.
We continue to face the criminal economic, commercial and financial blockade, viciously intensified in the midst of the pandemic as a sign of the intention to lacerate the most sacred of rights: the right to life. Provoking hunger and despair, making the entire Cuban population suffer to try to extract political concessions is, simply, the model of genocide that the United States designed through its infamous Mallory Memorandum, in 1960, to establish the blockade.
As a culmination of this genocidal policy, the immoral inclusion of Cuba in the list of alleged sponsors of terrorism has sought to cut off the flow of financial resources to the country.
The United States Government has also set out to sabotage Cuba's international cooperation in the area of health, based on a crude campaign to discredit it. The media war has also become a powerful weapon of these times, but in that field we have also gone out to fight and win.
Cuba persists in its eagerness to show that it is possible to build more just, humane and supportive societies, where unity is a key element to save the Revolution.
Those who expect the new generations of Cubans to betray their past and renounce their future are mistaken.
We are the continuity of the Revolution, not its rupture! We will keep eternal loyalty to the legacy of Fidel Castro and to the values in which he believed, promoted and defended the great friend of Cuba Nelson Mandela!
In this battle, the friends of solidarity with Cuba have been inserted very consistently. The creation of FOCUS and its subsidiaries in various provinces, the active accompaniment of the Alliance forces in this movement and the participation of numerous people in actions in support of Cuba, even outside these structures, attracts the greatest recognition and gratitude of our people.
Cuba testifies that solidarity is priceless. It is offered without expecting anything in return. We know the satisfaction it causes when it is given and also when it is received.
South Africa brought together the movements of solidarity with Cuba in Africa under the First Regional Conference in 1995, and is preparing to hold a new one in October. Thanking them is little for what their organizers do, because it is about that infinite debt that can only be paid with love, with the sincere friendship that we have managed to build.
Today is August 23, the 63rd anniversary of the creation of the Federation of Cuban Women (FMC). Women have managed to occupy a more prominent place in our country's destinies as a result of the management of the FMC and the inclusive policies of the Revolution.
We congratulate all Cuban women on this day, especially those who are with us this morning in Freedom Park.
Cuban international cooperation, of which many women are part, will continue to develop to the extent of our capabilities and the identification of new opportunities for its development.
Cuba's response has been clear and became so when the COVID-19 pandemic broke out in this very country: we will continue saving lives and striving for the good health and well-being of human beings wherever we are asked to do so.
We recognize the doctors and health workers deployed in South Africa, even in far-off areas.
We thank the South African authorities and especially its people for taking care of and supporting the Cuban personnel for more than twenty years.
We will continue cooperating with hundreds of Cuban aid workers who are now providing their services in education, construction and other major fields. To them, our fraternal embrace.
Despite our limitations and shortages, we will maintain our contribution to train young Africans. In South Africa we have the Mandela-Fidel Program, which has graduated more than 2,000 doctors.
Comrades and friends:
Allow me to also address the Cubans based in South Africa who are in the audience and who have not cut off their ties and still maintain a close and respectful relationship with their homeland. To all of you I extend my warmest greetings.
As part of the process to update the Cuban economic model and of the internal debates to build a better country, we have a modern Constitution designed with the contribution of Cubans living abroad, as well as a new Family Code and other laws that we will continue to approve. They all take into account the need to further engage those Cubans, which is why we have convened the Nation and Emigration Conference as a continuation of the 1978 Dialogue to facilitate communication with the Cuban top authorities on issues of general interest.
Sisters and brothers; dear friends:
Finally, allow me to refer again to the significance of this place, a sacred site that is part of South Africa’s heritage and that we also feel for in Cuba.
In the name of those who fell for the freedom and sovereignty of Africa, South Africa and Cuba and for peace and harmony among nations and human beings, let us fight for friendship to become indestructible and for future generations of South Africans and Cubans to be proud of the bonds that we bequeath to them.
Eternal glory to all those who fell in the fight against colonialism, racism and apartheid!
Amandla! (the crowd responds with “Ngawethu!”)
To victory always!
Long live the friendship between South Africa and Cuba!
Thank you very much.
Miguel Díaz-Canel Bermúdez, Pays his respects to the Cuban dead
Miguel Díaz-Canel Bermúdez lays a wreath