The man who defied empire

Constancio Hishiyukifa Mwandingi
On August 13, 2018 Fidel Castro Ruz, the historic leader of the Cuban Revolution, would have turned 92-years-old.

Fidel, as he was affectionately known in Cuba and by many around the world, led the last stretch of the struggle for Cuba’s independence, mainly through the 26 July Movement.

The movement mobilised the people of Cuba politically with the aim of overthrowing the dictatorship of Fulgencio Batista, who was supported by the government of the United States.

When Fidel and other young Cuban revolutionaries realised that Batista was not going to be removed through peaceful means, they decided to take up arms, and their first military action was the attack on the Moncada Garrison on July 26, 1953 in Santiago de Cuba.

Fidel personally put his life on the line by leading the group that attacked the Moncada Garrison and as a result, he and other assailants, including his brother Raul Castro Ruz, were imprisoned on the island of Pines, later renamed Island of Youth.

Thousands of Namibian children and young people, including the author, were later sent for schooling in Cuba, especially after the Cassinga Massacre of 1978, which was carried out by racist apartheid troops at Cassinga in Angola.

After they were released from the Island of Pines, Fidel led the young Cuban revolutionaries into exile in Mexico, where they regrouped and returned to Cuba in 1956 to continue the fight against the Batista dictatorship.

The group – 82 of them – returned crammed in an old yatch called Granma. They were ill-armed. During their journey to Cuba, one of their comrades fell into the sea and their trip was delayed on the orders of Fidel to try and rescue the fallen comrade.

This incident disrupted their plans as it delayed their docking on the coast of Cuba, which was planned to coincide with an internal uprising led by Frank Pais, the Cuban-based leader of the 26 July Movement.

As a result of that, the enemy was able to suppress the internal uprising, resulting in prosecution and, ultimately, in the death of Frank Pais in 1957.

The enemy ambushed the landing group of Fidel, resulting in a bloody encounter that saw only a few of the 82 revolutionaries surviving.

Of the survivors, 21 made it to the Sierra Maestra mountains in December 1956, while another six arrived in 1957.

The survivors included Fidel, his brother Raul, the Argentinian internationalist Che Guevara (who was recruited by Fidel in Mexico), and others who took refuge in the Sierra Maestra mountains to continue the fight.

The people of Cuba, who were fed up with dictatorship, joined Fidel and his small group of rebels to form a formidable rebel army that eventually overthrew the dictatorship in January 1959, marking the triumph of the Revolution in Cuba, which the American empire could not swallow because it disrupted its interests in Cuba.

Since that time, Fidel and Cuba were targeted until Castro’s death in 2016 at age 90.

Fidel is a transcendental leader who has influenced history in an incomparable manner.

He survived numerous enemy attacks and saved Cuba from destruction right in the belly of the empire.

If the world and life were fair, Fidel would have received Noble prizes – not one, but many – for helping bring about a better world for all and shaping the destiny of humanity towards justice and world peace.

Today, Cuba has one of the best health and education systems in the world. There is no illiteracy in Cuba, nor are there diseases caused by poverty – all that was achieved under the unparalleled leadership of Fidel.

As we celebrate the 92nd birthday of Fidel, we in Africa must honour the life and legacy of Fidel Castro Ruz for fighting, not only for our freedom, but also for our human dignity by giving us the best inheritance for young people, which is education.

Many of us who had the opportunity to study in Cuba are today contributing positively, in a variety of ways, to building Africa, thanks to El Comandate en Jefe Fidel Castro Ruz and Cuban people who did not only educate us, but also fought shoulder to shoulder with us on the terrains of Angola to achieve lasting peace in Angola, the independence of Namibia and the end of apartheid in South Africa; thereby, bring about a total liberation of Southern Africa.

In 1978, when I was in Cuba, Fidel spoke about the independence of Namibia and the end of apartheid, demonstrating his visionary thinking.

Go well, Comandate! – The Southern Times

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