By Knowledge Teya and
TOUCHING down at Jose Marti International Airport in Havana, Cuba, last week, President Robert Mugabe and his delegation were welcomed by the Zimbabwean Ambassador to Cuba, Cde Ignatius Mudzimba, and other officials from the Cuban Government.
The President had travelled to Cuba to pay his condolences following the death of former Cuban President Fidel Castro Ruz on November 25 2016.
Journalists from Cuba were present at Jose Marti International Airport, eagerly waiting for President Mugabe’s address.
That Cuba and Zimbabwe are friends is not a secret and that Cde Castro and President Mugabe were not just comrades-in-arms, but ‘brothers’ is a well-known fact.
And the cordial relations between the two leaders had grown over the years.
After independence, thousands of students from Zimbabwe also went to train in Cuba as sciences teachers .
There are currently many Cuban doctors in Zimbabwe and in Havana last week, we also saw many Zimbabwean students studying medicine.
The establishment of Bindura University of Science Education (BUSE) is another good example of the two countries’ fruitful relations.
But perhaps it is important to note that Cuba’s relations with Zimbabwe date back to the days of the liberation struggle when in 1978, after President Mugabe had visited Cuba, Cde Castro pledged to open an office of the Cuban Ambassador to ZANU in Maputo, which he did in order to keep abreast of Zimbabwe’s liberation struggle.
And at Jose Marti International Airport, President Mugabe said Cde Castro’s demise was not just a loss to Cubans, but to the world.
Said President Mugabe: “I, as President of Zimbabwe, have come to join the people of Cuba and mourn with them the loss of a dear brother and our leader Fidel Castro.
Fidel was not just your leader.
He was our leader and the leader of all revolutionaries.
We followed him, listened to him and tried to emulate him.”
There is no doubt the Cuban revolution stood as an example of how unity among oppressed people can negate Western repression.
Cde Castro led the revolution against US aggression for more than 50 years and Zimbabwe is now nearing 20 years of similar hostilities.
He outlasted 10 American Presidents, all who took part in plots to assassinate him.
Cde Castro lists a series of other attacks attempted by US-backed exiles, the US security services and other reactionary counter-revolutionaries.
He told a Cuban reporter in 2010 that the US’ fight was so deadly that it targeted even innocent children.
Mainly remembered for upholding the cause of socialism, Cde Castro said: “In 1971, under Nixon, swine fever was introduced into Cuba in a container, according to a Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) source.
In 1981, Type II dengue virus was unleashed resulting in 158 deaths, 101 of them children.
In 1984, a leader of Omega 7 terrorist organisation based in Florida, admitted they had introduced that deadly virus into Cuba with the intention of causing the greatest number of victims possible.”
Besides the above, there were an estimated 638 attempts at assassinating Cde Castro.
And as tributes flowed in Cuba for Cde Castro, the chief principle was ‘togetherness’; a message he sent to the world.
Zimbabwe’s liberation war, just like Cuba’s revolution, taught us that success cannot be attained without unity and as per the message constantly reinforced by Cde Castro: ‘Everyone achieves more through a united approach’.
His story, which the US failed to obfuscate, is testimony to Uncle Sam’s fascist manifestation to a world it seeks to deny freedom through its war-mongering tendencies and ‘big brother’ mentality.
But Cde Castro, who in the eyes of US was viewed as a threat to its imperialist stranglehold on Cuba, rose above that as well as gave inspiration to many countries, including Zimbabwe.
Harare is under threat from an angry US and the West for embarking on the historic Land Reform Programme in 2000.
Yet like Cuba, that has not deterred people from building their country whose economy has been battered by illegal sanctions.
Zimbabwe and Cuba’s resilience in the face of Western-sponsored onslaughts stems from unity, the hallmark of Commandante Castro and President Mugabe’s leadership.
Since the culmination of the Cuban Revolution in 1959 in the ouster from power of US-backed dictator, Fulgencio Batista, the US developed malevolent intentions for Castro after they failed to recruit him into the CIA.
US’ much loved form of ‘diplomacy’ has always been deadly sanctions, crude propaganda or wars of aggression.
The idea had been, and will always be, to break the will of the people and incite them to rebel against their leadership.
In the cases of Cuba and Zimbabwe, both victims of economic sanctions, their attempts to break the spirit of the people failed miserably, time and again.
Estimates by an economic outlook publication in 2010 revealed: “This US-initiated blockade cost the Cuban people over US$100 billion.”
In Zimbabwe, as of June 10 2013, US sanctions were estimated to have cost Harare US$43 billion.
Together with Che Guevara, Cde Castro assumed power on January 1 1959.
Batista had fled the country.
The new revolutionary Government immediately nationalised Cuban resources such as their vast sugarcane plantations.
This move ensured Cuba’s resources would no longer benefit greedy US corporations that had controlled them with Batista’s stamp of approval.
Cde Castro expanded the country’s social services, extending them to all classes of society on an equal basis.
Educational and health services were made available to Cubans free of charge, and every citizen was guaranteed employment.
Cde Castro, among other things, also did the following:
l The 1961 literacy campaign;
l Reorganisation of the health sector;
l Redesign of the educational system;
l Rapid expansion of the tourism sector;
l Provision of medical services to Latin
America and other countries;
l Survival in the face of the 1989-1993
l Winning economic support from the
Soviet Union, 1961-1990 and
l Establishment of the ‘Polo Cientifico’
and the development of the
Dedication to their jobs by Cuban citizens during the catastrophic decline in real wages and incomes after 1990, and
Fruitful collaboration with foreign enterprises.
Throughout his tenure, Cde Castro helped liberate several African nations from white oppression and colonisation.
Angola, Namibia and Guinea Bissau are a few of the numerous African nations that benefited from Castro’s and Cuba’s internationalism.
From 1975 to 1989, Cuban expeditionary forces fought in the Angolan civil war on the side of the communistic Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA).
In 1978 Cuban troops assisted Ethiopia in repelling an invasion by Somalia.
And in Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia, Cuban medical personnel were bold enough to combat the Ebola virus threatening to decimate Africa.
The mercurial Cde Castro, after decades of heroic struggle for social justice, not just for his native Cuba but for everyone around the world breathed his last on November 25 2016.
His legacy, however, will never die.
And President Mugabe’s message to Zimbabweans in Havana last week was encouraging when he said: “Let it not be said Zimbabwe became cold after the death of Castro, no!
Let’s remain warm, very warm in our relations.
Don’t give up because this hero is gone.
Heroes come and go.
We are happy he (Castro) charted the way.”
Go well Commandante!