Kojo Botsio, Che Guevara, Kwame Nkrumah and two Cuban officials in Ghana during the Guevara visit in late 1964 and early 1965 when he toured several African states. Guevara would work to liberate Congo in 1965., a photo by Pan-African News Wire File Photos on Flickr.
Red Reader Corner
The world celebrates the life and times of Che
By Phatse Justice Pitso
South African Communist Party
This week the world commemorates the 45th anniversary of the brutal assassination of one of the most outstanding and illustrious revolutionary and the leader of the world working class movement, Commander Ernesto Che Guevara. We pay tribute to a revolutionary heroic guerrilla who sacrificed his entire life in the forefront of our worldwide struggles to liberate mankind from the subjugation of imperialism and colonialism.
We join the rest of the world as we pay homage to a fallen hero who contributed immeasurably to the noble cause of working class solidarity and internationalism. We pay tribute to an extraordinary hero and a leader of the international proletariat movement who volunteered his life to liberate not only the people of his homeland and Latin America, but also the oppressed people throughout the whole world.
Commander Che Guevara was assassinated on the fateful day of the 09 October 1967 just seven days after I was cut from the umbilical cord of my mother. We take our pride to associate our being with such a colossal revolutionary the world has ever produced in this century. Indeed Che epitomizes a generation in the records of the history of our struggles for the emancipation of mankind, belonging to the category of the rare spices.
We pay tribute to a leader of the working class whose image and tenacity over the years has become a symbol and embodiment of our worldwide struggles for solidarity and internationalism. Che will forever live in the hearts and minds of our people as a heroic guerrilla, whose revolutionary ideas inspired him to devote his whole life for the liberation of our people against oppression, exploitation and social injustice.
As we celebrate the life and memory of this outstanding Commander of the rebel army, we also pay tribute to the heroes and heroines of our struggles, the best sons and daughters of our motherland who fell at the battlefield in pursuit of the noble ideas of liberating humanity from the shackles of imperialism and fascism.
We salute the heroism of those sons and daughters of our liberation struggles who ceased to exist in line of duty in Vietnam, Angola, Western Sahara, Namibia, Zambia, Mozambique, Guinea Bissau, Zimbabwe, Palestine, East Timor, and every where else in the world world. Their mortal remains have natured a tree of liberation that inspired our people to overcome and triumph over the forces of our adversaries.
On the wall of the Vallegrande public telephone offices a graffiti in Spanish dedicated to the revolutionary Che reads "Che alive as they never wanted him to be, in us Che lives, and he lives for ever as they never wanted him to be. In us revolutionaries of the current epoch, Che lives as they never wanted him to be". Indeed it is true that even if Che has departed from our midst, his revolutionary ideas and teachings shall live with us forever.
The challenges we face today is the extent to which our young generation is determined to emulate the exemplary qualities of devotion, discipline and determination, fearlessness and audacity, and also high moral and political consciousness embedded in the revolutionary character of the caliber of Che. The world needs more than one million Che Guevara to confront and resolve the contradictions of poverty, disease and underdevelopment ravaging our society.
Ernesto Che Guevara was captured and assassinated by the CIA backed mercenaries of the then government of Bolivia, at the same historic period in the phase of our struggles, when our liberation movement unleashed its first military operation that was carried by the combined forces of our glorious army, uMkhonto we Sizwe and Zimbabwean People Revolutionary Army. It was during the battle of Wankie and Spolilo where our freedom fighters waged the first victorious confrontation against the forces of Rhodesia and the racist South African regime.
The Wankie campaign heralded a turning point in the history of our arm struggles led by the glorious army of our national liberation movement. It was the first ambitious and successful operation carried by the military wing of our national liberation movement, the ANC, to pave way for the infiltration of our freedom fighters into the racist military zone of Rhodesia, South West Africa and South Africa, which was under the auspices of the apartheid regime.
We mention this historic episode in the calendar of our national liberation struggles as we remember Che, for the fraternal reasons that the heroic people of Cuba contributed immensely in solidarity with the people of our continent against colonialism. The same reason why we will always express our profound appreciation to the generosity of the Commander in Chief Fidel Castro, the humane and courageous family of Che and the unity of the Cuban revolution, for having afforded Che with the opportunity to distinguish himself as the revered leader, capable of leading a world wide struggles against the oppression and exploitation of imperialism and colonial domination.
Because of his revolutionary conviction to fight the injustices perpetuated by the system of imperialism and colonialism, Che joined Fidel and Raul in their expedition to free the people of Cuba from the hands of the tyranny. He joined the Granma expedition of the revolutionary rebel army that landed in the Sierra- Maestra Mountains, where they defeated and overthrew the repressive Batista regime.
Che has to espouse the following profound words of inspiration when he remembered one of the emotional incidences in his life as a member of the rebel army, when the Commander in Chief Fidel bestowed the rank of a Commander unto him " In an informal way I was nominated commander of the second column of the guerrilla-army. The dose of vanity that prevailed in every one, made me the proudest man that day".
The event that saw Che decorated as a commander of the rebel army took place on the 27th of July 1957 in the Sierra- Maestra Mountains. It was during a fateful day when members of the rebel army had to sign a book of condolences to bid farewell to the brother of the coordinator of the 26 July movement Frank Pais, who was assassinated by the notorious and repressive Batista regime.
This incident was the inspiration that built a new man in Che, a man destined to build a worldwide guerrilla movement, to liberate the suffering people of our motherland from the yoke of human oppression and exploitation. A decade later, on the 18th of October 1967, few days after the assassination of Che, during an emotionally charged rally in the city of Havana, Fidel has to say the following words in memory of the life and times of Che,
"We arrived. We began the first marches. We suffered the first setback. And after a few weeks, we met again, as you know, that, of the small group of those who left off with the Granma expedition, Che continued to be the doctor of our troops.
The first victorious battle was waged and Che then became a soldier of our troop; at the same time he was still the doctor. The second victorious battle was waged and Che the soldier became the most distinguished of the soldiers in that battle, for the first time accomplishing one of those singular missions which characterized him in all the actions. Our force continued to develop and a battle of extraordinary importance at that time was waged.
And on that occasion he was not only a distinguished fighter but he was also a distinguished doctor, giving assistance to the wounded comrades and at the same time caring for the wounded enemy soldiers. And when it was necessary to abandon that position, once all the weapons were captured, and begin a long march besieged by various enemy forces, it was necessary for somebody to stay with the wounded. El Che stayed with the wounded helped by a small group of our soldiers. He cared for them. He saved their lives and until later when he would join the column with them.
That was one of his outstanding characteristics - immediate willingness, instantaneous readiness to volunteer for the most dangerous mission. Naturally this elicited admiration, double admiration for the comrade who fought beside us, who was not born in this land, who was a man of profound ideas, who was a man in whose mind surged dreams of struggle in other parts of the continent and the world, the dreams of altruism, of unselfishness and of willingness to always do the most difficult to risk his life at all times.
It was in this way that he won his rank of major and that of commander of the second column that was organised in the Sierra Maestra. In this way his prestige grew. His fame began to grow as a magnificent fighter, which was to carry him to the highest ranks in the course of the war.
That is why we say that, when we think about his life, when we think about his conduct, this was the case of a very rare man, because he was able to blend in his personality not only the characteristics of a man of action but also those of a thinking man, a man of shining revolutionary virtues and extraordinary human sensitivity blended with a character of iron, a steel will, and indomitable tenacity.
As a revolutionary, as a communist revolutionary, really communist, he had infinite faith in moral values, he had infinite faith in the conscience of men and - we ought to say it - in his conception he saw with absolute clarity that morality was the basic fulcrum for the construction of communism in human society.
He thought, developed, and wrote about many things. And there is something that ought to be said on a day like this. It is that Che's writings, Che's political and revolutionary thoughts, will have a permanent value in the Cuban revolutionary process and the revolutionary process of Latin America. And we have no doubt that the value of his ideas - of his ideas as a man of action, as a man of thought, as a man of proved moral virtues, as a man of extreme human sensitivity, as a man of irreproachable conduct - have and shall have universal value.
And so he has bequeathed to future generations not only his experience, his knowledge as an outstanding soldier, but also the work of his intelligence. He wrote with the virtuosity of a classicist of the language and his narrations of the war are unsurpassable. The profundity of his thinking is impressive. He absolutely never wrote on anything without extraordinary seriousness, without extraordinary profundity. We do not doubt that some of his writings will pass on to posterity as classical documents of revolutionary thinking.
Che did not fall defending any interest, defending any cause other than the cause of the exploited and the oppressed in this continent. Che did not fall defending any cause other than the cause of the poor, the humble, of this land. And the exemplary manner and the selfishness with which he defended that cause are not even debated by his greatest enemies.
Before history, the men who act as he did, the men who do everything and give everything for the cause of the humble, become greater with every passing day; they enter deeper into the hearts of the peoples with every passing day.
And the imperialist enemies are already beginning to perceive this. They will not be long to realize that his death will in the long run be like a seed from which will emerge many men determined to emulate him, many men determined to follow his example.
From the revolutionary standpoint, from the standpoint of our people, how should we view Che's example? Do we perhaps believe we have lost him? It is true that we will not again see new writings. It is true that we will not again hear his voice. But Che has left the world a patrimony, a great patrimony. And from that patrimony we who know him so intimately can to a considerable degree be his heirs.
He left us his revolutionary thoughts. He left us his revolutionary virtues. He left us his character; his will, his tenacity, his work ethic. In a word, he left us his example. And Che's example should be a model for our people. Che's example should be the ideal model for our people.
If we want to say how we want our revolutionary fighters, our militants, our men to be, we should say without any hesitation: Let them be like Che. If we want to say how we want the men of future generations to be, we should say: Let them be like Che. If we want to say how we want our children to be educated, we should say without hesitation: We want them to be educated in Che's spirit. If we want a model of a man, a model of a man who does not belong to this time, a model of a man who belongs to future times, from the hearts, I say that the model, without a single blemish in its conduct, without a single blemish in its attitude, without a single blemish in its actions - that model is Che. If we want to know how we want our children to be, we should say with all the passionate heart of revolutionaries: We want them to be like Che.
Che has become a model of man not only for our nation, but also for Latin America and the whole world. Che raised revolutionary stoicism, the spirit of revolutionary sacrifice, the combativeness, and the working spirit of the revolutionary to their highest expression. Che gave the ideas of Marxism-Leninism their freshest, purest, most revolutionary expression.
No man like him in these times has raised the spirit of proletarian internationalism to its highest level.
And when one speaks of a proletarian internationalism and when one seeks an example of a proletarian internationalist, that example, above any other example, is the example of Che. In his mind and in his heart, the flags, the prejudices, the chauvinisms, the egoisms had disappeared. He was willing to shed generously his blood for the fortune of any people, for the cause of any people. He was ready to shed it freely, ready to shed it instantly.
And so his blood was shed in this land where he was wounded in various battles. His blood was shed in Bolivia for the redemption of the exploited and the oppressed, the humble and the poor. That blood was shed for all the exploited, for all the oppressed. That blood was shed for all the peoples of America, of Africa and Vietnam, because he knew that, in fighting against imperialism there, he was offering the people there the highest expression of his solidarity ".
We borrowed the eloquent and revolutionary words of the Commander in Chief for the obvious reasons that, he is the only one who can tell the world best of the exemplary leadership of Che. Theirs was an indestructible friendship born out of the trenches of our revolution to liberate humanity. He is the only one who can tell about the discipline, high revolutionary values, selflessness, humility and willingness that became the common characteristics of the leadership of Che to serve the revolution with vigour.
Ernesto Che Guevara, has to say the following words himself during the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development held in March 1964 in Geneva, where he addressed a speech to be known as the philosophy of plunder must cease, "While the socialist republics are not represented here, the government of the Union of South Africa, which violates the Charter of the United Nations with its inhuman and fascist policy of apartheid, penalized in their own laws, and defying the UN by refusing to report on the territories it holds in trust, holds a seat in this room, all these anomalies cause this meeting not to be defined as the world peoples forum".
Later on the 11th of December of the same year, during the nineteenth UN General Assembly in New York, in another speech, he stated, "Once again we raise our voice to alert the world about what is happening in South Africa, the brutal apartheid policy is being applied before the eyes of the nations of the world. The peoples of Africa are forced to endure the formalization in that continent of the superiority of one race over another; the unpunished murder in the name of racial superiority. Will the UN do nothing to stop this?"
The history of the common brotherhood between the two people of the continent of Africa and the Americas is an unimaginable journey that can be traced as early as the times of the emergence of modern capitalism. It is indeed a fraternal friendship of nations that can be traced from the period of history when the industrial revolution led to the scramble for the expansion of new markets and demand for accumulation of raw material throughout the whole world.
It was during the interesting times of our history of evolution when the European voyages of exploration and expedition sailed through the world of the unknown to expand their sphere of influence and socio- economic hegemony of their respective nations. The time when the world saw the renowned explorers Christopher Columbus reaching the shores of the Americas and the Caribbean Island and Vasco da Gama becoming the first European to reach India through the Atlantic ocean.
It is important to remind ourselves today as we pay tribute to Che, that this movement for the scramble of the world, was accompanied by the most cruel forms of human rights violations and atrocities that forced most of the world indigenous people relinquish their being to the powers of the colonial authorities. Massive disintegration of the world population became the feature of the day as millions of innocent people were displaced into the acrimonious world of slavery. The slanderous apatite for profits drove colonial masters to turn the people of our continent and many others throughout the world into commodities of the lucrative slave trade.
In our country the establishment of a refreshment station by the voyagers at the Cape in 1652 heralded a new socio-economic and political landscape that shaped the nature and character of the South African National liberation struggles. The indigenous people of our country like many others throughout the whole world for the first time found themselves having to wage struggles against intrusion, territorial expansion and conquest by the colonial masters. The provocations as a result of forceful expropriation of land and livestock led to increase hostilities between the indigenous people (Khoi and San) and the colonial settlers.
History proves that barbaric acts and perpetuation of genocide led to the extermination of millions of indigenous people in our country and else where in the world. Over three hundred million people were forcefully imported from Africa to work as slaves in the sugar plantations across the islands and countries of the Americas. Many of them died from hunger, disease and slanderous hands of the slaves' masters.
Along the shores of our country millions of people from India, Malaysia, Indonesia, Madagascar, and many islands of the East Indies were forcefully imported to work as slaves at the Cape Colony. These sons and daughters of the working class were compelled to severe ties with their love ones and later found themselves held captive and enslaved to do force labour for their colonial masters.
The strategic geo- political location of the Cape and its prospective influence on the world map exacerbated tensions between the British and Dutch colonial powers. Ever increasing tensions compelled many Voortrekkers to migrate into the hinterlands of our country in their large numbers in protest against the laws imposed by the British administration.
These sporadic movements of the Voortrekkers later sparked a wave of tribal and frontier wars against colonial conquest and dispossession that dominated the South African political scene for centuries to come. The scramble for vast fertile lands belonging to the native people left most of their kings and chiefs with no option but to lead their tribes and people to defend their land.
The unfolding events of deepened contradictions of colonial interests between the British and Dutch colonial powers led to the establishment of the first Boer Republics on the continent, the republic of the Transvaal and the Orange Free State. The fervent desire and outcry for the Afrikaner nationalism against the domination of the British administration and the struggles for the control of the economy especially after the discovery of gold and diamond saw to the outbreak of the Second South African War.
The ravaging war with its catastrophic scotch earth policy led to the total destruction of the entire socio-economic infrastructure of the Afrikaner community. This war become one of the major contributors of the poor white problem the first Union government has to face in 1910 upon its establishment.
After fierce battles and protracted negotiations the war ended in the 1902 with the peace treaty of Vereeniging. The thrust of the negotiated settlement led to the establishment of the Union of South Africa under the British dominion. The formation of the Union became the beginning of a foundation for systematic segregation of the Native people who constituted the vast majority of the population of the country. The Union bared the native people from becoming meaningful participants and architects of the birth of the Union of South Africa.
The participants at the peace treaty of Vereeniging outrageously rejected the inclusion of the non- racial franchise clause in the constitution of the draft constitution of the Union. That fomented the Native people to forge for a coherent political movement that would challenge their exclusion from the political mainstream. The systematic exclusion and segregation of the native people of our country resulted in the founding of South African Native National Congress in 1912 in Mangaung.
Today we pay tribute in memory of the life and times of Che during a historic moment of the hundred years anniversary celebrations, of relentless struggles led by our national liberation movement. In December 1964 Che undertook a three months tour to foster relationships with the progressive governments and liberation movements of the continent. The tour covered various countries of our continent such as Egypt, Algeria, Guinea Bissau, Ghana, Congo Brazzaville and Benin.
As a result of their mutual interaction and common perspective on the problems phasing the people of the two hemispheres, the leadership of the Cuban revolution offered to contribute the following as a gesture of solidarity with the people of their ancestral continent, (a) technical collaboration through the provision of medical and other professional services, as well as scholarships for the African youth to study in Cuba, (b) military support to independent countries whose territorial integrity was under threat ( c) military support to countries under colonial oppression ( d) and more importantly full support in the fight against apartheid in South Africa as well as in Namibia and Zimbabwe.
After thorough political considerations the Cuban Revolution agreed to offer immediate assistance to the following requests from the leadership of our continent, (a) collaboration through supplies and military support for Amilcar Cabral's PAIGC in Guinea Bissau, (b) military support for Agostinho Neto's MPLA in the Cabinda province, along the Congo Brazzaville border, (c) military collaboration with Congo Brazzaville under Massemba Debat when it faced invasion by the government of Mobuto and his thousands of White mercenaries,(d) and collaboration with Kabila's guerrilla movement in the east of Congo Brazzaville.
Few months later an episode that would later change the complexion and political landscape of the African liberation struggles took place. Two contingents of Cuban fighters landed and touched the texture of the African soil. The first one that was led by Che himself arrived in the Congo Leopoldville (Kinshasa) where they fought alongside Lumumba guerilla fighters under the leadership of Kabila and the second one which was led by Jorge Risguet landed in the Congo Brazzaville where they joined revolutionary forces to defend the nationalist government of Massemba Debat.
The revolutionary embrace of solidarity and internationalism saw over three hundred Cuban internationalists arriving on the African Continent to involve themselves in various battles with their fellow liberation movements of the continent as their strived to emancipate themselves from the yoke of colonial intrusion and domination. As we remember Che we will also graciously so pay tribute to many of his combatants who stood and fell gloriously so by the oppressed people of our continent, living their heroic bones on our African soil.
It was through the assistance and determination of the Cuban internationalist that the combined military force of our freedom fighters liberated our people from the racist apartheid military zone of the Southern Africa. It was during the heroic battle of Cuito Cuanavale that the people of Zimbabwe, Botswana, Namibia, Mozambique, Angola, Congo, Democratic Republic of Congo, Zambia and South Africa liberated themselves from racist oppression, white domination and super exploitation by the apartheid regime.
We will always be inspired by the heroism of the men and women of this Caribbean island who shed their blood alongside the people of Zaire, as they fought against the tyranny of Mobuto Seseko, who died alongside our brothers and sisters in Guinea-Bissau as they waged their struggles against Portuguese colonialism, who died alongside the people of Ethiopia as they fought against Somali expansionism, who died alongside the people of Angola, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Zambia and many others when they confronted the sophisticated and brutal racist and repressive apartheid regime.
The Cuban Internationalists continue to embrace and distinguish themselves as the most exemplary as they expand their warm hands on solidarity and international work. Thousands of Cuban revolutionaries are on international missions across the world volunteering to assist the most impoverished communities from the bondage of poverty, disease and underdevelopment. They are even extending their warm hands on the fraternal health sector to assist the same oligarchy governments who are the architects of the unjust trade and economic blockade imposed on the people of the heroic island.
As the revolution continues to renew and reconstruct its economic and social foundation, it is simultaneously embracing its hand of solidarity to those in struggles against imperialist domination and capitalist exploitation across the globe. It continues to offer free scholarships for thousands of students from around the world to study in Cuba on various fields of disciplines, especially the health sector.
We are certain that if the artistic guerrilla fighter Che was here, if the legendary Che was with us, if Che was alive, he would have marched side by side with the people of the world to demand for the immediate end of the fifty year economic blockade besieged by the US imperialism on the humane people of Cuba. We are certain that Che would have stood by the overwhelming mandate of the Cuban people to defend the sovereignty of their motherland against adversity.
We are certain that Che would have joined the campaign by the millions of the people of the world to release the five Cuban Heroes incarcerated in the American jails. We are certain that our five leaders of tomorrow are equally cherished by the revolutionary spirit of Che as they move with confidence into the future, the future of our revolution. We are encouraged by their revolutionary zeal to defend their revolution from the deep canals of the prison walls.
Che is not dead, Che is alive, and we will always be inspired to follow the footprints of his exemplary leadership.
Long live the undying spirit of Commander Che
Long live the Cuban revolution
Long live the Commander in Chief of the revolution Fidel Castro
Long live the spirit of solidarity and internationalism
Homeland or death
Phatse Justice Pitso is the former ambassador to Cuba and member of the ANC and SACP writing this tribute to Che on his personal capacity.