Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe and Fidel Castro of Cuba. The two nations have a long record of solidarity and mutual cooperation.
Originally uploaded by Pan-African News Wire File Photos
EDITOR — If they are waging revolutions the way they used to then this globalised world will not be able to produce revolutionaries like they used to. The Fidel Castro type of revolutionary is now a rare species. The likes of him are thoroughbreds that are now hard to come by.
Yes, it was magnanimous that Castro stepped down from power on his own terms although the Cuban people still wanted him to go on. This was despite his debilitating illness and his absence from public life since July 2006.
I recall the Reuters report I read in October 1998 when Castro said that he was not "married" to power, but had no immediate plans for retirement. He was then 79 years of age. He said further, "Do you believe that one has the right to retire in the middle of a battle like the one this country is fighting?"
How very poignant at this moment of Zimbabwe’s history!
Everything was on Castro’s terms. Fifty years ago, together with his comrade-in-arms Che Guevara, they overthrew the Fulgencio Batista regime and spawned a revolution that spread its wings in Latin America and as far afield as Africa, Zimbabwe included.
Fidel Castro’s little Cuba stood between giants from the Cold War period, up to the ‘‘war on terror,’’ each time having the danger of being squeezed, crushed and run down. But he survived.
Castro was vilified and demonised at every point, and at one time together with another comrade in arms, Venezualan president Hugo Chavez, they jokingly remarked that they were called the "axis of evil".
Isn’t it ironic that he has outlived the very people who tried so many times to depose him?
When communism fell elsewhere, Castro’s little Cuba stood resolute as if held by unshakeable pillars and spirit. Castro survived, and Cuba also survived the harsh realities of daring to stand up to those who have become the world’s self-appointed rulers.
Will it unnerve the United States citizens and their allies that a man, a system and a country they loathed and demonised for five decades has relinquished power on his own terms, and not because the United States and its western allies have successfully effected illegal regime change?
In those five decades, Fidel Castro outlived nine United States Presidents: Dwight Eisenhower (1953-61); John F. Kennedy (1961-63); Lyndon Johnson (1963-69); Richard Nixon (1969-74); Gerald Ford (1974-77); Ronald Reagan (1981-89); George H. W. Bush (1989-93); Bill Clinton (1993-2001); and George W Bush (2001-2009).
Who now has become the victor, and who is the villain? Despite the demonisation, Castro created structures, which produced one of the best medical systems in the world, and is an envy to all and sundry if they want to be honest.
That little island with its meagre resources has been home to thousands of students from Africa, Latin America and Asia. Some of Zimbabwe’s top-flight teachers, medical doctors and veterinary surgeons were successfully trained in Cuba. One of them, Dr Thokozani Hove did Zimbabwe proud in the 1980s when she became one of the best students in the veterinary science field.
Highly-skilled Cuban doctors are working in hospitals in most parts of Africa and Latin America, enduring hardships in most of these places.
As one commentator said, since 1959, Castro’s presence on the political scene cannot be brushed aside because there are people who disagreed with the way he conducted business. He is a revolutionary who brought change onto the geo-political sphere, without fear or favour. It is a matter of interpretation how one defines the successful nature of that change.
In Africa especially, Angolans know and understand better the role that Castro played when Angola became a battleground not only for the Cold War giants, but also for the evil system in apartheid South Africa.
Those who love Castro love him truly and those who dislike him also do so with a passion. Southern Africa’s liberation movements are grateful to Castro for the assistance his small but big country rendered the region in order for it to gain political independence and self-determination.
We therefore celebrate Castro’s five decades of service with pride and sadness. One of the American presidents Ronald Reagan once said, "one man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter"? We will always remember those long, inspiring speeches, the trademark cigars, fatigues and that long beard, and of course the charisma, fearlessness, resoluteness, resilience and principled stand.
We are, therefore, not embarrassed to say, Cde Castro, you gave the world 50 colourful years, collapsed in two different centuries that changed the world, and true revolutionaries wish you all the best. We also wish that Cuba remains stable under the capable hands of Cde Raul Castro.
Adios, Gracias Amigos!