The Herald Harare Havana Caesar Zvayi
Displayed with permission from allAfrica.com

PRESIDENT Mugabe has described the death of the leader of the Cuban revolution and founding father of the nation Commandate Fidel Castro Ruz, who passed on on Saturday night, as a loss not only for the people of Cuba, but many communities and leaders in Africa where the Commandante’s legacy of liberation and assistance endures. Addressing the media on arrival at Jose Marti International Airport here yesterday morning, President Mugabe chronicled how Cuba, under the leadership of Cde Fidel Castro, was unencumbered by the albatross of an illegal Western blockade to help liberate and develop the human resource capacity of several countries in Africa and South America.

« In short I can just say taking all that he has done, Fidel Castro, and all that Cuba has done under his leadership, your loss is our loss and we could not just stay away and keep away now that he is gone. We could not just keep away without coming to say farewell dear brother, farewell revolutionary, » said President Mugabe.

« We shall always remember you as our own in the same way as Cubans will do so and that is the spirit that brings me and my delegation here, just to be with you, to share a tear with you and assure you that our hearts are with you also.

« But also our hearts are full of courage, and his life that he has bequeathed us, a lot of revolutionary goodness, » he said.

Fidel’s legacy, the President said, transcended Cuba to cover the people of Africa and South America that he sacrificed so much for.

« I, as President of Zimbabwe, have come to join the people of Cuba and mourn with them the loss of our dear brother, and our dear leader Fidel Castro.

« To express our deep condolences to them, and assure them that their feeling of deep loss is shared by us in Zimbabwe, and I happen to know by also a great many communities and leaders in Africa, » President Mugabe said.

« Fidel was not just your leader. He was our leader and the leader of all revolutionaries. We followed him, listened to him and tried to emulate him.

« I used to come several times here and met with him and shared with him our situation in Africa, our struggle in Africa, and there was in him the spirit of a man who identified himself with our struggles, » he said.

Commandate Castro came to power in 1959 after overthrowing the regime of US acolyte Fulgencio Batista after a popular revolution.

He presided over Cuba for 47 years, first as Prime Minister up to 1976, then as president from 1976 to 2006 when he handed the reins to his brother, Raul, the incumbent president.

Cde Castro set up a socialist state right on the US doorstep and launched a people-centred development agenda that drew the wrath of the US establishment which responded by imposing an illegal economic blockade on Cuba on February 3, 1962, including masterminding 638 attempts on Cde Castro’s life, all of which failed as he outlived 11 US presidents till he went out on his own terms on Saturday surrounded by family and friends.

Due to his life of selfless service not only to Cuba but the entire developing world, Cde Castro’s circle of friends and family extended beyond the borders of his tiny Caribbean nation to encompass all who believe in their inalienable right to freedom and self-determination, Zimbabwe included.

Zimbabwe-Cuba relations date from the days of the liberation struggle when Cuba extended material, logistical and moral support to the struggle. They firmed with the establishment of formal diplomatic relations at independence in 1980 and have been manifest in manpower development that culminated in the establishment of the Bindura University of Science Education in 1996.

The university was born out of the localisation of the highly successful science and mathematics teacher training programme that had for 10 years seen thousands of Zimbabweans graduate with science and mathematics education teaching degrees in Cuba.

President Mugabe said of Cde Castro: ´´He was not just a man of words, he was a man of action. And in my country after he visited us during the Non Aligned Movement Summit of 1986 and discussed with me how Cuba could assist, he agreed to establish on the Isle of Youth, a university to train our young men and women in science and mathematics. Overtime he trained over 3000 young teachers of science and mathematics who have done a lot of good work in Zimbabwe.

´´ And besides that, he decided to start a programme on a completely unexpected basis taking into account that Cuba was suffering from sanctions imposed on it by the United States and its allies, a programme of training doctors for countries, Latin American countries, South African, if not African communities, to train doctors for us.

´´We have those doctors in our hospitals to this day, the medical personnel. We have them now as I speak. And this was being done by a Cuba that was in difficulties economically because of the sanctions imposed unfairly on it by America.´´

He thanked Cubans for their resilience in withstanding over half a century of an illegal western blockade saying this connected them with the people of Africa.

´´And we want to thank the people of Cuba for their spirit of endurance, bearing this suffering from sanctions. It is that spirit that has identified the people of Cuba with the people of Africa and has made us one in our struggle,´´ President Mugabe said.

As such it can be said for Zimbabwe apart from holistic independence and democracy, Cde Castro’s legacy lives on in the ongoing STEM initiative pioneered by the science and mathematics education programme, the Look East policy he again pioneered after a fallout with western rabble rousers, and manpower development.

Today many of the beneficiaries of Cde Castro’s vision are members of the Zimbabwe Cuba Friendship Association (Zicufa) that continues to pursue synergies of enhancing the strong bilateral relations between Harare and Havana.

Said Harvard scholar Garikai Chengu, « Fidel Castro is beloved by the free people of Africa, Asia and South America because he always stood with them against the tyranny of Empire.

« While Britain and America were supplying arms to help Africa’s apartheid regimes, Cuba was busy sending its men to fight them.

« America considered Mandela a terrorist, Cuba simply helped arm him. »

Under Castro, Cuba had the best literacy rate in the world because it spent five times as much on education as war – the opposite of what America does. In fact, Cuba achieves the same health care system outcomes as the United States at only 5 percent the cost.

« Lest we forget, Cuba was the biggest single provider of healthcare workers to the Ebola crisis in West Africa, more than all richer nations. Cuba has sent more doctors throughout the world to minister to the poor than even the World Health Organization.

« Cuba has played one of the greatest humanitarian roles in the world, especially given its small size and meagre resources, » said Chengu.

President Mugabe is accompanied by Foreign Affairs minister Simbarashe Mumbengegwi, Health and Child Care minister Dr David Parirenyatwa and senior Government officials.

He was welcomed at Jose Marti International Airport by ambassador to Cuba Ignatius Mudzimba, Cuba´s Justice Minister and embassy staff.