Address by Deputy Minister Mfeketo on the occasion of Celebrating Womens’ Month in collaboration with the Cuban Embassy’s celebration of Former President Fidel Castro’s Ninetieth Birthday, Freedom Park, 30 August 2016
Your Excellency, the Ambassador of Cuba to South Africa;
Ladies and gentlemen
It is a great pleasure for me to address you on this occasion to mark 60 years of the Women’s march in South Africa and the 90th birthday of President Fidel Castro, the historical leader of the Cuban Revolution.
From the early years of the Cuban Revolution, the issue of women’s rights and their role in society became a priority of the government led by Fidel Castro. He understood that without their support and active contribution it was not possible to achieve military victory or to carry out the radical social and political transformation of a liberated Cuba.
The photo exhibition in honour of Fidel Castro takes us through a journey travelled by this true revolutionary who has helped many liberation movement in their struggles across the globe.
The hosting of the photo exhibition here is indeed appropriate as this is the spiritual resting place for those who played a part in the freedom and liberation of South Africa. It is worthy to also note that Freedom Park is inclusive of Cuban soldiers under the command of President Castro who assisted to deliver liberation and freedom to South Africa.
It is therefore no accident that we find ourselves here today to celebrate South African Women’s month and the birthday of this friend of our liberation. The celebration will however not be complete without reflecting on South Africa and Cuba’s united humanity and common history of struggle against colonialism and apartheid.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is difficult to accept President Castro’s words when he said:
“I am not a liberator. Liberators do not exist. The people liberate themselves”.
His resolve to fight oppression has inspired all freedom loving people to continue waging struggles in their own countries.
If you were to allow me to differ with President Castro on this one, I would say people are inspired by leaders like him to liberate themselves. To me, and I am certain to most of us in this room, Fidel Castro is a liberator, especially in the sense of freeing the mind from ideas and beliefs that enslave our thinking at times.
As I already mentioned, the photo exhibition to mark the celebration of President Castro’s 90th birthday, coincides with the celebration of a very important milestone in the history of our young nation. The 60th anniversary of the women’s march to the Union Buildings to protest against pass laws. It remains an inspirational milestone because following this march, the way women were seen by the apartheid state, and prejudices against women in South Africa were dealt a fatal blow.
We thought it befitting to host this event today alongside the celebration of the photo exhibition because the women of South Africa believe that there are few countries outside our continent that have contributed more to the struggle of the African women for liberation from colonialism and apartheid than Cuba.
Colonialism and Apartheid denied women their basic rights and the very essence of their humanity. President Castro’s statement that ….
“There is often talk of human rights, but it is also necessary to talk of the rights of humanity”
…..reminds us that women’s rights, just like all human rights, are a declaration of the principle of equality of all humanity in a non-racial, non-sexist and democratic world.
The women of South Africa today pride themselves of carrying forward the torch of fearlessness and self-affirmation that was passed on by those who came before us; those who risked their lives by confronting a murderous regime to ensure the true liberation of women.
The fearlessness and legacy left for us by those women should remain something we cherish and pass on to future generations.
As we continue in our struggle towards total women emancipation, we are encouraged by developments in Cuba on women empowerment.
Against the odds, Cuba has outpaced many countries, including developed nations, in categories crucial to gender equality: the number and percentage of women in politics and in high-level ministerial positions.
This gives credibility to President Castro’s assertion that women’s rights is a ‘revolution within a revolution’.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
South Africa and Cuba have translated their bond of historical friendship into formal bilateral relations with co-operation covering a wide spectrum of fields. Notably health, labour, defence, social development, built environment, infrastructure, science and technology, safety, sustainable development, agriculture and sanitation.
As we forge ahead, we must strengthen the strong bonds of solidarity, peace and friendship between the women of our two countries. We must also broaden that relationship to include women in our co-operation in the areas of trade and investment.
Equally we would like to see women from our two countries engage at the highest level possible in the solidarity campaign to end the economic blockade by the United States.
In the same vein, we would like to see increased participation of women in the efforts of the South African Chapter of the Friends of Cuba Society (FOCUS) in mobilising support in solidarity campaigns for Cuba, especially its women, in South Africa and elsewhere.
As I conclude, I want to thank the management of Freedom Park for allowing us to host this event here today. This is the most appropriate venue for this celebration. I especially want to thank the Embassy of Cuba for accommodating us to share this platform to mark the commemoration of the sixtieth anniversary of the historic women’s march. Today also gives us an opportunity to see rare photographs of the man that has been our friend through our darkest days under apartheid.
Lastly, I want to take this opportunity to wish President Fidel Castro a happy ninetieth birthday and wish him personal good health and many more years well into his retirement.
Long Live President Castro!
Long Live the bonds of friendship between the women of South Africa and Cuba!
I Thank you.
ISSUED BY THE DEPARTMENT OF INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS AND COOPERATION
OR Tambo Building
460 Soutpansberg Road