Remarks by the Secretary General of the ANC Cde Ace Magashule during the 30th Anniversary of the Battle of Cuito Cuanavale and the Centenary of the Life of the Father of our Nation Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela at the Freedom Park
14 May 2018
Cde Programme directors
Your Excellency, the Cuban Ambassador to South Africa, Cde Rodolfo Benitez Verson
Your Excellencies, fellow Ambassadors from various other countries
Former President Cde Kgaleme Motlanthe
The Speaker of the National Assembly, Cde Baleke Mbete
The Minister of Arts and Culture, Cde Nathi Mthethwa
The First Deputy Secretary of the South African Communist Party, Cde Solly Mapaila
The President of COSATU, Cde Sdumo Dlamini
The leadership of the ANC Veterans League and other veterans of our liberation struggles from the African continent and the whole world
The leadership of the ANC Women League
The leadership of the ANC Youth League
The Friends of the Cuba Society in South Africa (FOCUS)
My fellow colleagues in the South African Government and the African National Congress
The leadership of the South African Progressive Youth Alliance
The leadership of the South African Business Community
The leadership of the South African Church Community
Fellow South Africans and all our international friends
Comrades and compatriots
On the occasion of this magnificent historic day, of the 30th anniversary celebrations of the epoch making battle of Cuito Cuanavale, and the celebrations of the remarkable leadership role of the two outstanding titans of our revolution, Cde Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela, the father of the South African nation, and Cde Fidel Castro, the commander in chief of the Cuban revolution, we convey our revolutionary greetings.
On behalf of the leadership of the national executive committee of the ANC and the people of our country, we express our sincere words of gratitude and appreciation to this memorable great historic day.
This most auspicious day, represents the hallmark of the catalogue of the rich history of struggles of our people against the oppressive and exploitative systems of imperialism and colonialism. The day occasions great bonds of friendship and brotherhood built over centuries of incalculable acts of solidarity and internationalism.
This solemn occasion is a living testimony that ours is a rich history of struggles of brothers and sisters from the other womb of the mother. Even if our horizons are far apart in the imaginations of our geographic maps, the scientific truth is we are too close to each other, by the biology of the genes of blood streams flowing through our veins and vessels.
Our indestructible bonds of friendship flow from the fountain of the wisdom and teachings of one of the greatest apostles of human civilization, Apostle José Martí, when he says” our homeland is humanity” and indeed in the words of the Commander in Chief when he says” our country is not just Cuba, our country is humanity”. The great battle of Cuito Cuanavale remains an inflammable torch to illuminate many of the generations of man to come.
We dedicate this day to the heroic memories of Jose Antonio Aponte, the first African free slave to lead an insurrection against Spanish colonialism in Cuba. We decorate the beautiful memories of this day, by remembering the heroic exemplary leadership role of this great descendent of the Angolan people.
With unprecedented cruelty, this great son of the soil of the African continent, was executed by the Spanish military tribunal on the 09th of April during the 1812 in the city of Havana. We cherish the glorious and heroic path by this indomitable warrior of our people, his were extraordinary acts of courage humanity shall forever seek to emulate.
We dedicate this day to the living memories of one of the most illustrious heroine of the struggles for the emancipation of slave people, Cde Carlota. She illustrated the centrality of the leadership role of women in the struggles against capitalism and all its manifestations of patriarchy, by becoming the first slave woman to lead a rebellion against Spanish slave masters in Cuba.
The body of this beautiful flower of the descendants of the Angolan people was torn into pieces by horses which were chained to move into different directions. We shall always salute the humane gesture by the Cuban revolution, to have named the first major military operations on the African continent, after this martyr of our revolution, to be operation Carlota.
We dedicate this day to the living memories of our most revered revolutionary leader of our national liberation movement, President Reginald Oliver Tambo.
Our inspiration on solidarity and internationalism is derived from the leadership role of this erstwhile revolutionary and the longest serving President of our movement.
These are his profound revolutionary words he expressed during the first congress of MPLA at Luanda in 1977”
In the very first hours of its existence, people`s republic of Angola had to defend itself against the massive military onslaught of a mature but decaying imperialist system. The trials that confronted the MPLA even before November 11, 1975, right through to 1976 when the racist oppressor army of the Vorster regime was evicted from Angola, were not a test solely of the valour and military preparedness of MPLA and the people of Angola.
The results of that contest have now become a matter of proud historical record. Progress triumphed over reaction, thanks to the heroic sacrifices of the people of Angola, supported by their progressive African allies, by Cuba, the Soviet Union and other socialist countries and by all peoples advancing towards progress.
What started as a triumphant march by the forces of reaction into the heart of Angola ended up with a deeper crisis for the Vorster regime inside South Africa itself.
The humiliating defeat of Vorster`s army was at the same time defeat for the social system for which that army had been created, trained and armed to defend.
The myth of the invincibility of the racist army was destroyed for ever. For the fascist regime of John Vorster, whose ultimate and principal means of survival is naked brute force, this was a stunning blow”.
We dedicate this day to the living memories of our two renowned revolutionaries of our century, our struggle icons President Nelson Mandela and the Commander in Chief Fidel Castro. The two leaders of our revolution taught the world that human generosity is the most fulfilling highest form solidarity.
The Commander in Chief of the Cuban revolution Fidel Castro has to say the following profound revolutionary words about the battle of Cuito Cuanavale” the decisive battles should not be waged on the terrain chosen by the enemy, the decisive battles must be waged on the terrain chosen by one own forces, and the enemy must be hit in sensitive, truly strategic places".
In his own words, President Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela, during his first visit to the republic of Cuba, just after his release from jail, had to say the following profound words, at a rally organised in the province of Matanzas, where the South African Communist Party, held its last congress in the underground” the history of Africa will be written as before and after Cuito Cuanavale. The battle of Cuito Cuanavale was the turning point in the struggles for the liberation of the continent and our people from the lash of Apartheid".
The fraternal relations between the people of Cuba and the African continent, is an unimaginable journey emanating from the early times of the emergence of modern capitalism. The roots of our historical relations are found in the horrific history of the scramble of the superpowers for the expansion of new markets and accumulation of raw material.
The scramble for territorial conquest throughout the world was accompanied by the most cruel forms atrocities and human rights violations. Millions of the people of our continent and many parts of the world were forced to relinquish their being to be commodities of the slave trade.
Many of the sons and daughters of the African continent were forced by the circumstances to severe ties of bondage with their families, relatives and fellow country men and found themselves enslaved to do force labour by colonial masters. Many died of hunger, disease and slanderous hands of their masters.
Through their sufferings and deprivations in the hands of their slave masters, the African slaves demonstrated their heroism against adversity. They followed the words of the father of the independence of the Latin America, Simon Bolivar when he says” we are children of storm, men and women of difficulties, even if we face adversity, we must and fight, until it obeys us”.
Their determination and courage to take forward their struggles for freedom and equality ultimately defeated the mighty sword in the hands of imperialism. Their bonds of solidarity led to the achievements of the victories of their struggles for independence.
In countries like Brazil, Jamaica, and many islands of the Caribbean and Latin America, slaves people of the African descend escaped from the captivity of their slave masters and built independent maroons republics in the mountains. The determination for the achievement of their struggles for freedom and dignity, saw the declaration of the independence of the first slave republic of Haiti in 1804.
It is during this day that we salute the memories of these heroic son and daughters of our motherland. Their struggles represent great moments in the history of the development of human society.
In the entire history of human civilization, the Cuban revolution, became the only exemplary, to extent its gesture of solidarity, by paying back the debt of the pain and slander by the African people in the hands of the slave masters. The Cuban revolution proved to the whole world that hers is a revolution with a human face.
The everlasting gesture was when thousands of Cuban men and women volunteered to fight side by side with many of the African people in their struggles against the imperialism and colonial domination. The most important period of the episode of our struggles which saw the greatest feats of human solidarity and internationalism.
Just after the triumph of the Cuban revolution, immediately after the historic battle of Playa Giron, one of the biggest battles which heralded the first military defeat of the USA in the American hemisphere, the first epic event of solidarity took its shape between the revolutionary people of Cuba and the African continent. The Commander in Chief of the Cuban revolution, designated the first warship, which took the first longest journey to the shores of the African continent.
The warship, the Bay of Nipel, carried the first moral gesture to pay the debt to the African people, in a form of weapons, which the revolution seized from the American mercenaries during the battle of Playa Giron, to assist the newly born republic of Algeria, against invasion by the Moroccan monarchy. The warship went back home carrying precious cargo of wounded combatants of Algerian freedom fighters and war orphans, to be the first students and patients to receive the warmth of the good gesture of solidarity and internationalism, by the revolutionary government of the republic of Cuba.
Few years later, two contingents of Cuban revolutionary fighters arrived into the African continent. The first one was led by the Cuban internationalist Che Guevara and the second one by one of the commanders of the Cuban revolution, Jose Risquite.
The contingent of revolutionary fighters led by Che went into the Congo Kinshasa, where they joined the Lumumba liberation forces led by Laurel Kabila against the dictatorship of Mobuto sese seko and the other one into Congo Brazzaville, where they join forces to defend the revolutionary government of Massemba Debat.
After the sudden collapse of the Portuguese empire in the 1974, which led to the independence of most of her colonies in the world, including Angola and Mozambique, the South African racist regime together with the puppet government of Zaire ( Congo DRC) under Mabuto and the USA, hatched a conspiracy plan to thwart the ascension of the MPLA to political power during the day of independence. The Cuban government sent thousands of soldiers to defend the revolutionary government led by António Agostinho Neto.
It was indeed the decisive Battle of Quito Cuanavale in 1988 where the racist troops of the minority white apartheid regime of South Africa were finally and thoroughly defeated by the combined forces of the Cuban Internationalist Forces, the Angolan FAPLA, the Combatants of the People’s Liberation Army of Namibia (PLAN), SWAPO’s military wing and the ANC military wing Umkhonto we Ziswe(MK).
Forty thousands Cuban combatants, Nine hundred and ninety eight tanks, six hundred armoured transport vehicles, one thousand and six hundred artillery pieces, mortars and anti aircraft defense deployed by the Cuban revolutionary government at the battle side of Cuito Cuanavale, was the most heroic bastion that collapsed the most destructive and cruel, repressive and racist Apartheid regime on our mother continent.
As a result, the racist troops of the minority white apartheid regime suffered heavy military defeat and a blow to the regime itself. The entire world watched in shock how the racist forces retreated in desperation and humiliation. At the final stage of the military offensive, the combined, Cuban Internationalist Forces with the FAPLA Forces launched the final assault, and Cuban and Angolan MiG 23s bombed Calueque Dam where apartheid South Africa built its military bunker.
The enemy then realized that its war machinery was broken and its soldiers demoralized without having neither the capacity nor the stamina to match the well-prepared combined forces of Cuban Internationalists Forces, FAPLA, PLAN Combatants and MK. The battle of Quito Cuanavale was a decisive turning point and battle that brought the white apartheid South Africa colonial system to its knees.
It was this reality of the turn of events, that the courageous struggles led by our people intensified, and there were popular uprisings inside South Africa on the street of every major city, town and village that brought us to tipping point where revolutionary change became unstoppable. Workplaces, universities, schools and churches were burning, following a clarion call from the then still exiled ANC to make the country ungovernable.
During the same year, Cde President OR Tambo declared that” South Africa was pregnant and ready to give birth to democracy”. His bold courageous statement cane at the height of our struggles when apartheid regime declared another state of emergency. This great moment of history was followed by another famous statement by the Commander in Chief when after inspecting the route of the SANDF at cuito Cuanavale when he said” Why stop here, why not continue towards Pretoria”.
The defeat of the colonial South African army at Quito Cuanavale, Chipa and Calueque had great psychological effect and was a severe shock to the South African white minority settlers. In February 1989, P.W. Botha suffered a stroke and after that his political demise was inevitable.
It is in this context that later President FW De Klerk, immediately after his inauguration and, following such a massive military defeat at the hands of the liberation movement, , during the occasion of the opening of the apartheid racist parliament in February 1990, announced the end of the state of the emergency, unconditional release of all political prisoners and the unbanning of the entire liberation movement.
We shall forever be inspired by the words of generosity by the leader of the Cuban revolution Cde Raúl Castro, during the first congress of the MPLA in 1977 when he said” the day our presence here is no longer necessary, only the people of Angola will be able to issue that order.
And when the Cubans here for that purpose withdraw from Angola, we will take with us neither oil,nor diamonds,nor coffee, nor anything else. All that we will take with us is the indestructible friendship of this great people, and the remains of our dead".
During a solemn welcome ceremony, of the last contingent of the Cuban combatants to come back home, at the pantheon of General Antonio Maceo, the Commander in Chief said the following moving words of welcome” we placed our trust in you. Welcome back, comrades. The homeland receives you grateful and proud.
Later during the same year, at the occasion of the anniversary of General Maceo, Fidel declared the carrying of operation tribute throughout the Island. In an emotionally charged speech, he said” at this very same moment, simultaneously in every corner of the country from which they came, the remains of all of the internationalists who fell in the fulfillment of their noble and glorious mission are being laid to rest”.
Humanity shall forever salute the indispensable far reaching acts of heroism by the men and women of the Cuban revolution. We salute their immeasurable acts of heroism in the battle fields along side many of our brothers and sisters in Algeria, Guinea Bissau, Guinea Conakry, Ethiopia, Somali, Sudan, Angola, Zambia, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Mozambique and our country South Africa.
The Cuban revolution remains to be an unshakable Ambassador of the revolutionary world movement in the current period of the hostile world dominated by imperialism. The Cuban revolution remains to be the best political school of the world revolution.
We therefore take the opportunity of this great day, to join the international community, demanding for the immediate end of the economic blockade by the USA government against the people of Cuba. We call on President Donald Trump, to return to the path of the peaceful way of resolving the relations of the two nations, on the mutual principle of the respect of territorial integrity and sovereignty.
We use the opportunity of this great day of solidarity and internationalism, to support the struggles of the people of Palestine. We call on the Israel government to halt on the horrendous acts of illegal occupation of the Palestine land. We make a call to the international community to support all efforts to respect the sovereignty and independence of a free Palestine state.
We call on the African Union to accelerate the process for the independence of the people of the SAHARAWI republic. We have to act on common purpose to make the world a better place for humanity.
As we are standing here this afternoon at the wall of remembrance, reading the names of the many Cuban combatants who fell in line of duty in Angola, I become firmly convinced that time has come more than ever before for the world revolutionary movement to unite. To unite and unite for the sake of the struggles of our people against the hostile world dominated by imperialism and neo colonial forces.
Unity is a precondition to the success of any revolution. It is our task, the task of all revolutionaries, the task of all progressive forces of the world, to work together in our common objectives to make the world a better place to live.
In honour of these revolutionaries whose names are inscriped in the roll cal on this great wall of remembrance, that as the ANC, we make our commitment to follow on the implementation of the decision, taken by our delegation, under the leadership of our former President Jacob Zuma at Cuito Cuanavale, few years ago. During the visit, it was agreed to identify the graves of MK soldiers and erect a monument in their honour.
It was further proposed that their remains be brought to South Africa for reburial. I am happy that this process to honour our liberation heroes, and to ensure that they will never be forgotten in the annals of our liberation history, is becoming one of our key priorities as a liberation movement.
We thank the organisers, and all who are here today attending this event, that you have casted it in the context of the centenary celebrations of the Father of Our Nation, former President Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela. It is indeed befitting that we do so, because Madiba was always uncompromising in his loyalty and friendship to El Commandante Fidel Castro and the Cuban people.
In doing so I will be amiss not to emphasise that our Long Walk to Freedom is not yet over. We still have many battles to fight for the full economic liberation of our people, and until those battles are won and our people are truly the owners of the land, and in control of the means of production, we cannot claim to have achieved our full liberation.
I am happy that the 54th National Conference of the African National Congress passed very strong resolutions in favour of Radical Economic Transformation (RET) - it is now for us to ensure that those resolutions do not remain good sounding words, but are indeed implemented without compromise, fear or favour. I have no doubt that El Commandnte Fidel Castro – a true man of action who a aways translated his words into deeds – would have strongly urged us to do exactly so.
We owe to the many of the unsung heroes and heroines over centuries of our struggles, we owe it to all those men and women of our humane world, those who volunteered their own lifes, in pursuit of our noble struggles, along the long great path of our trenches, for the development of human society.
Thank you very much. A luta continue!