WARM WELCOME: Cuban leader Fidel Castro greets Nelson Mandela at the Non-Aligned Movement conference in Durban in 1998.  Picture: GETTY IMAGES
WARM WELCOME: Cuban leader Fidel Castro greets Nelson Mandela at the Non-Aligned Movement conference in Durban in 1998. Picture: GETTY IMAGES

South African political figures have paid tribute to former Cuban president and revolutionary Fidel Castro, who died on Friday night at the age of 90.

ANC secretary-general Gwede Mantashe on Sunday described the former Cuban dictator as a man who had not left an indelible mark not only on his own nation’s history‚ but also that of the world.

"Castro had a true sense of service to his people. He did not outsource his historic responsibility to corporate profiteers," Mantashe said.

"He understood the saying that rapacious capital is not in the business of nation building.

"The importance of Castro in the history of the postcolonial world is monumental because he won the real battle of developing a small island against imperialist domination.

"Comrade Fidel joins the global pantheon of revolutionary leaders who have passed from this life having left an indelible mark not on just their nation’s history‚ but the history of the world.

"For everyone committed to the ideals of equality‚ of social justice‚ of freedom‚ of the universal brotherhood of man – today is the saddest of days‚" Mantashe said in a tribute in the publication ANC Today.

ANC stalwart Ahmed Kathrada said that for many in SA, Castro remained a symbol of anti-imperialism.

"His unwavering support for the freedom of SA and his stance against the apartheid regime‚ will ensure that his name is recorded in our history books as one of the foremost international supporters of our liberation struggle."

Kathrada pointed out that he had the opportunity of accompanying Castro to Robben Island in September 1998 and was struck by both his easy-going nature‚ and the great interest he paid to the history of the prison.

"In later years‚ I was reminded of the trip on two specific occasions: when Raul Castro and Barack Obama shook hands at the funeral of Fidel’s contemporary‚ Nelson Mandela; and‚ when I accompanied the recently released Cuban Five on a similar tour of the Island."

The South African National Civic Organisation (Sanco) said that though the world would be poorer without Castro‚ his legacy would live forever and his indomitable spirit would inspire generations to come.

"We are deeply saddened by the revolutionary icon’s death. Like Che Guevara‚ Castro dedicated his entire life to serving humanity, and championed the cause of international solidarity and freedom for the downtrodden and oppressed across the world‚" Sanco national spokesman Jabu Mahlangu said.

Mahlangu described Castro as a gallant fighter who made it his life’s mission to fight and defeat imperialism‚ colonialism and fascism.

"He inspired our struggle for liberation and, as a true champion of the poor, marshalled support for our post-apartheid programmes aimed at improving the healthcare system‚ eradicating illiteracy as well sharing expertise for the people’s housing programmes and changing the lives of our people‚" Mahlangu said.

The South African Communist Party (SACP) expressed its "profound revolutionary solidarity and condolences with the people of Cuba and Castro’s family".

General secretary Blade Nzimande said: "Human history will be incomplete without Comrade Fidel Castro’s colossal contribution in the struggle for freedom‚ for a society without the exploitation of one person‚ group‚ or country by another. The SACP is deeply saddened by the loss."

He said the Cuban people and government under Castro had offered "outstanding solidarity support" to the SACP’s struggle against colonial oppression and apartheid.

"The defeat of the forces of apartheid SA in Angola that paved the way to the dislodgment of the apartheid regime in SA in 1994 would not have happened without the people of Cuba and Comrade Fidel Castro’s exceptional leadership‚" Nzimande said.

The EFF said Castro’s death was a loss to the South African people as well as to the African continent, which had benefited from his leadership and the revolution he led on behalf of his people.

"We in South Africa know that our liberation from apartheid is unthinkable without the contribution of the Cuban people‚" the EFF said.

President Jacob Zuma said Castro "inspired the Cuban people to join us in our own struggle against apartheid".

He conveyed condolences to the government and the people of Cuba on behalf of SA.

TMG Digital

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