Address by the Deputy Minister of International Relations and Cooperation, Hon. Luwellyn Landers, on the occasion of welcoming the Cuban Five to Cape Town, South Africa, Gala Dinner, 22 June 2015
Cdes, Gerardo Hernandez, Ramón Labañino, Fernando Gonzalez, Antonio Guerrero and René Gonzalez Your Respective Families and the rest of the Cuban Delegation ( Cuban 5) Ministers and Deputy Ministers Members of the Portfolio Committee For International Relations and Co operation Other Members of Parliament Members of the Diplomatic Corp and Government Leaders and members of the Friends of Cuba Society (Focus) , The National Association of Democratic Lawyers ( NADEL) & all other civil society representatives Leaders and members of the Alliance Ladies and Gentlemen Comrades and friends
On behalf of the South African Government and people of South Africa we are both honoured and humbled to host the Cuban 5 and their families here today. To us, you are heroes of international solidarity and the struggle against international oppression of the poor and downtrodden.
You and your country Cuba have demonstrated to the world the true meaning of international solidarity as you have always given expression to two cardinal principles echoed in the words of Commandante Che' Guevara when he said and I quote: "our struggle can never be over as long as there is a single human being suffering anywhere in the world`' and elsewhere when he said`: "if you can feel indignation at the slightest injustice done to anybody, anywhere, then you can be a comrade of mine.``
Your country's example of international and Afro-Cuban solidarity is perhaps nowhere more evident than in the lives of its revolutionary leaders and disciplined cadres who fought side by side with Africa's freedom fighters in pursuit of the dream of justice, freedom and peace.
Afro-Cuban solidarity is not a theoretical paradigm but has been forged in the heat of battle. Over the past 50 years Cuba has served as an inspiration to me as an individual and to the people of South Africa. The reasons for the admiration that we have for you and your nation are many, and can be best summed up by the words of President Comrade Fidel Castro who said:
“Cuba knows no fear and despises deceit; it listens with respect but believes in its ideas; it firmly defends its principles and has nothing to hide from the world,”
Indeed it is this undeniable spirit that has firmly placed President Comrade Fidel Castro, yourselves and the people of Cuba in the hearts and minds of people across the world.
We acknowledge with gratitude and respect your country's role in the realisation of our objectives of a free, fair and just South Africa for all its citizens. You supported the liberation struggle, providing us with amongst others assistance with education, scholarships, and fighting side by side with us in the trenches. The Cuban 5 that we are honouring here this evening, were amongst those brave Cuban soldiers fighting the Apartheid forces in Angola.
Cuba’s commitment and dedication to ensuring that the principles of non- racialism and self-determination were realised not only in South Africa but across the African continent. There are few countries that can boast having played such a pivotal role in liberating our Continent from the shackles of colonialism, imperialism and apartheid in the way that Cuba can.
It is for this reason that O.R. Tambo, an icon of the liberation movement and a man loved and respected by many, including the people of Cuba who said that; “Cuban people live with us in Africa, they fight with us, they die with us, they fail, and they win with us. They have become part of the struggling people of our continent”.
Comrades and Friends,
Since the advent of our democracy and despite all the political and economic challenges your country faces due to the unilateral and illegal blockade imposed on your country by the United States, Cuba continues to help the countries of the South. Cuba has continued to support our Country and many others on our continent through supporting us with the deployment of Cuban medical and built environment professionals, as well as training our youth in these scarce and much needed skills. Cuba continues to help the continent in developing preventative health care research amongst others. This commitment is abundantly evident with the deployment of over 60 000 medical doctors in over 50 countries across the world, providing medical care to those most in need and usually in rural and the most inaccessible places with little or no existing medical care.
Comrades and Friends,
To the Cuban 5 who are sitting here today, we say thank you to you for your selfless sacrifice and patriotism that you demonstrated in building international solidarity, fighting terrorism against your country and defending the ideals of the Cuban revolution.
In a world where the dominant narrative of our youth is one of individualism, opportunism and materialism, your message of revolutionary commitment, idealism, dedication, discipline, social activism, and self-sacrifice for a just cause helps to inspire our youth and instil in them the revolutionary idealism that they are fast losing.
After decades of persecution, isolation and the blockade imposed by the United States Government on the people of Cuba, your release after years of unjust incarceration is welcomed. It is a victory Cuba and for all freedom-loving people across the world. Your release is a victory for human rights, international law and the expose’ of the gross violation and aberration of the US justice system which seeks to persecute those that dare stand up to the US. It is also a victory for the growing International Solidarity Movement for Cuba as well as all countries of the South.
In conclusion, we are extremely pleased with the rapprochement between Cuba and the USA. However, we must not become complacent. As freedom loving governments and civil society movements across the world we must increase our international solidarity campaigns on all fronts (bilateral, multilateral platforms and civil society, etc.) to bring about a speedy lifting of the blockade against Cuba, without preconditions. We must also demand the removal of United States forces and personnel from Guantanamo Bay, so that Guantanamo Bay is returned to the Cuban people.
Viva Cuba Viva, Viva the Cuban leadership Viva, Viva our heroes, the Cuban 5, Viva.
I thank you
ISSUED BY THE DEPARTMENT OF INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS AND COOPERATION
OR Tambo Building
460 Soutpansberg Road