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Thursday, 12 December 2013

A tribute to Angola and Cuba by Nelson Mandela


The speech below was given in Luanda during the course of a visit by Mandela to the Angolan capital. Also speaking at the rally was Angola's president, José Eduardo dos Santos. Transcribed from a recording, Mandela's speech was published in the June 8, 1990, issue of the Militant.

COMRADE president, chairman of the cabinet, leading members of the MPLA, members of the diplomatic service, and other distinguished guests and comrades:

It is an honor and pleasure for me and my delegation to put our feet on the soil of Angola. I have never had the honor of meeting Comrade President Agostinho Neto. But as early as 1959 we knew of him. We knew him as the courageous and dedicated freedom fighter and head of MPLA.

When I received the invitation to visit Angola, I made it a point that Comrade President dos Santos should allow me to go and pay my respects to the grave of Comrade President Agostinho Neto.

This morning, on the plane flying from Lusaka to Luanda, I had the opportunity of seeing the program that was prepared for my visit here. And I couldn't believe my eyes when I saw that, as a matter of fact, Comrade President dos Santos had arranged for me to go and pay my respects to the grave of the founder of democratic Angola.

This morning I laid a wreath on his grave. Few moments in my life have touched me so much as when I saw his grave.

I will go back to my country South Africa feeling strong and confident that the day of liberation is not very far off.

Throughout the years when I served my life sentence in South Africa, I heard of the name of Comrade dos Santos. I met him for the first time in Lusaka in February this year. I have had the honor of meeting him again today. Even more important, I have had the honor and pleasure of addressing you in this stadium today.

From what I've seen today, what I've seen of him, what I've seen of you, I have no doubt whatsoever in my mind that the people of Angola will win.

We are disturbed that this great and beautiful country, with so many riches which could be exploited in the interests of the people of Angola, has been split from top to bottom by a civil war which has been engineered by South Africa and other hostile forces.

In this conflict, the entire OAU, the Frontline States, the Nonaligned Movement, and the democratic forces of the world fully support the MPLA and FAPLA [People's Armed Forces for the Liberation of Angola], the people of Angola in their struggle to free their country from all the forces of reaction and conservatism. The African National Congress and the overwhelming majority of the people of South Africa are among the millions that support your struggle to unite the country.

We note the moves that are afoot to bring about peace to the country. We support that move, but even more, when democratic changes take place in South Africa—which we hope are not very far off—we will not allow our country to interfere in the affairs of Angola.

You all know that there are strong political ties between the MPLA and the ANC, between the people of Angola and the people of South Africa. Those good relations were developed in the course of the bitter struggle which you, the people of Angola, and the people of South Africa, are even at this moment fighting for. These strong and beautiful ties manifest themselves in our working relations on the international level, in the OAU, the United Nations, the Nonaligned Movement, and other international bodies.

Angola, as you know, has also been our main military base, especially from 1976. In 1976 a generation of students and youth poured out of South Africa—in particular out of Soweto—in order to receive military training to free their country by force of arms.

The ANC brought these young people into Angola to receive military training. This was indeed a major turning point in the history of South Africa. Because as a result of the generous support we received from the government and the people of Angola, these young men were able to train and then to intensify the armed struggle in our country.

The progress we have made in our armed struggle is owed largely to Angola. Angola allowed us not only to receive arms from friendly countries abroad, but also allowed us to establish camps and gave us the freedom to train our soldiers and to impress upon them our standards, values, and the necessary discipline. This enabled us to improve the quality of training, which resulted in the rapid development of our struggle.

We hope that one day we will also be free, as you are. On that day we hope to invite to our celebration, to our people's celebration, all those heads of state who have assisted us in our moment of need. One of those heads of state that will certainly be invited and whose contribution to our struggle will be expressly acknowledged is none other than Comrade President dos Santos.

I know of hardly one occasion when a man was killed by those who admire him, because they love him. I must warn Comrade dos Santos that we will have to mobilize a large force to protect him from those people of South Africa who love him.

Everybody who is present in those celebrations will want to touch him, to clasp his hand, and to thank him directly for what he has done. We therefore pay tribute to him, to the government and people of Angola, for the help they have given.

Equally important, we know the crucial role which was played by the government and people of Angola in the course of the Namibian struggle to free that country. Through the crucial role which has been played by the government and the people of this country, it was possible for Namibia to be free, to be a free country. We also pay tribute to the people's republic of Cuba and to Comrade Fidel Castro. In size, the people's republic of Cuba is a small country. It is not as wealthy as the old industrial countries of the world. But there is one thing where that country stands head and shoulders above most of the countries of the world: it is its love of human rights and of freedom. Inspired by those basic needs, it rallied around Angola when she was attacked by hostile forces from South Africa and from other parts of the world.

But today I am in Angola, and one day I will visit that great country and be able to express my appreciation directly to Comrade Fidel Castro and the people.

There is another country that has long given support to Angola, and that is the Soviet Union. One day I will be visiting the Soviet Union. I will thank Comrade Gorbachev personally for what he has done to ensure the defense of the freedom, the political independence, and the territorial integrity of Angola.

There are of course many countries in the world—perhaps too many to certify—who have also given some sort of help to you in the course of your struggle. And we are also indebted to them.

My last word to you is that it is so easy to forget when you are facing difficulties that you have many powerful friends. Powerful not in the weapons of destruction they possess. Powerful not because individuals among you, a minority of individuals among you, command vast sums of money and other forms of wealth. Powerful because they love human rights, and they're prepared to give their very lives in order to free human beings throughout the world, to make them happy and secure. You have such powerful friends. They all wish you strength, peace, and success in everything that you do.

Above all, we wish Comrade President dos Santos strength and success. He has led you in this country very well. He has made an important contribution in the struggle for freedom in this region. And we wish that he and his government and his party will be given long health and love in everything they do.

Viva MPLA!

Viva the people's army, FAPLA!

A luta! [The crowd responds: "Continua!'] [The struggle continues!]

Protest in Soweto demanding resignation of discredited local town councillors, April 1990.

Why Nelson Mandela Loved Fidel Castro          
The Huffington Post  |  By Roque Planas Posted: 12/06/2013 3:31 pm EST
Nelson Mandela Castro
Cuban leader Fidel Castro, left, shares a laugh with South Africa President Nelson Mandela at the World Trade Organization held in Geneva Tuesday, May 19, 1998. Mandela and Castro said in separate speeches that the global trading system had failed to achieve its goals of bringing a higher standard of living to many developing countries. (AP Photo/PATRICK AVIOLAT) | ASSOCIATED PRESS
Americans generally view Nelson Mandela as a hero and Fidel Castro as a villain. Mandela saw things differently.
The South African leader’s nationalist and anti-imperialist stances collided head on with the world’s superpower and gave him a lot in common with its Cuban archenemy. Mandela embraced the former Cuban leader because he opposed apartheid and represented the aspirations of Third World nationalists that the United States undermined across the globe during the Cold War.
As it did for many leftists in the Global South, the Cuban Revolution’s triumph in 1959 inspired Mandela. Charged with the task of starting a guerrilla army in 1961, he looked to the writings of Cuban Communists for guidance.
“Any and every source was of interest to me,” Mandela wrote in his 2008 autobiography. “I read the report of Blas Roca, the general secretary of the Community Party of Cuba, about their years as an illegal organization during the Batista regime. In Commando, by Deneys Reitz, I read of the unconventional guerrilla tactics of the Boer generals during the Anglo-Boer War. I read works by and about Che Guevara, Mao Tse-tung, Fidel Castro.”
Mandela’s admiration for the Cuban Revolution only grew with time. Cuba under Castro opposed apartheid and supported the African National Congress -- Mandela's political organization and the current ruling party. Mandela credited Cuba’s military support to Angola in the 1970s and 1980s with helping to debilitate South Africa’s government enough to result in the legalization of the ANC in 1990.
The U.S. government, on the other hand, reportedly played a role in Mandela’s 1962 arrest and subsequently branded him a terrorist -- a designation they only rescinded in 2008. In 1986, President Ronald Reagan vetoed the Anti-Apartheid Act.
Given this history, it shouldn’t be surprising that Mandela remained sharply critical of the United States into his later life. When the George W. Bush administration announced plans to invade Iraq in 2003, Mandela said: “If there’s a country that has committed unspeakable atrocities in the world, it is the United States of America. They don’t care.”
Shortly following his release after 27 years as a political prisoner in 1990, Mandela visited Cuba to express his gratitude, calling Castro’s Revolution “a source of inspiration to all freedom-loving people.”
"We admire the sacrifices of the Cuban people in maintaining their independence and sovereignty in the face of a vicious, imperialist-orchestrated campaign," Mandela said during the visit, according to the Los Angeles Times. "We, too, want to control our own destiny.”
During a public event in Havana, Mandela asked Castro to visit South Africa.
“Who trained our people, who gave us resources, who helped so many of our soldiers, our doctors?” Mandela said. “You have not come to our country -- when are you coming?”
None of this went down well with the Cuban exile community in the United States, most of whom fled the Revolution in the early 1960s. Even before Mandela’s visit to Cuba, Castro’s opponents in South Florida fumed over the praise Mandela heaped on the island’s Communist leader. When Mandela came to speak against apartheid in Miami in 1990, five Cuban-American mayors signed a letter criticizing him for his pro-Castro comments.
The pressure prompted the local government to snub Mandela, canceling an official welcome of the recently released leader.
In response, black leaders boycotted the Miami tourist industry until 1993, according to the Miami Herald.
Despite protest from Cuban Americans and criticism from those who pointed to human rights abuses in Cuba, Castro and Mandela continued their warm relationship, with Mandela saying he wouldn’t turn his back on those who had opposed apartheid. Castro took Mandela up on his offer to visit in 1994, when he traveled to attend Mandela’s inauguration as South Africa’s first black president.
Mandela passed away on Thursday at the age of 95.



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