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30th Anniversary of the battle of Cuito Cuanavale

"Cuito Cuanavale was a milestone in the history of the struggle for southern African liberation," said Nelson Mandela.

To mark the 30th Anniversary of the battle of Cuito Cuanavale on 14 May 2018, dignataries gathered at Freedom Park honouring Nelson Mandela's legacy in solidarity with Cuba in the year of his centenary.

Photo: Cuban Ambassador Benitez Verson, Former President of SA Kgalema Motlanthe and Ambassador of Namibia Veiccoh K. Nghiwete give Diplomas to Cubans who fought for the liberation of Africa.

Cuban youth laid a wreath in front of the Wall of Names at Freedom Park in Pretoria to pay tribute to the heroes who sacrificed their lives in the struggle for justice and freedom. Among these names are 2 289 Cubans who sacrificed their lives as internationalist combatants on African soil. Diplomas were awarded to Cuban internationalists who fought in Africa. The battle spanned from August 1987 till March 1988.

Addressing guests Cuban Ambassador Benitez Verson said, "There is an African saying according to which: “The foot prints of the people that walked together can never be erased”.

The deep and special relationship between Cuba and Africa was cemented in the battlefields of southern Angola, where almost half a million of Cubans joined their fate with that of African combatants to reject the military intervention of apartheid and imperialism in the continent.

This year marks the 30th anniversary of the epic battle of Cuito Cuanavale. That remote town in the Angolan province of Cuando Cubango became a symbol of resistance and courage, after the victory against the army of the opprobrious Apartheid regime.

By the beginning of November 1987, the South African armed forces had encircled the best Angolan units in that village and were preparing to annihilate them. The fall of Cuito was imminent, which would mean a devastating blow to the Angolan government.

The army of racist South Africa counted for its offensive with powerful infantry forces, modern combat aviation, tanks, and high-precision weaponry. Both the South African Army and the puppet armed group UNITA, were openly supported by the United States, which supplied them with sophisticated surface-to-air Stinger missiles, anti-tank-missiles and millions of dollars in military aid after the U.S. Congress rescinded the Clark Amendment.

In that context, Cuba quickly responded to the Angolan government's call for assistance. Some dozens of thousands volunteer Cuban combatants, along with vital military equipment, traveled more than ten thousand kilometers from the Caribbean and crossed the Atlantic.

On March 23rd, 1988, the South Africans and UNITA launched their last major assault against Cuito. But they were definitely stopped by the revolutionary forces of Angola, Cuba, the SWAPO and MK.

The battle was one of the largest engagements of its kind ever fought on the African continent, exceeded in size and intensity only by the North African campaigns of World War II.

The Apartheid regime tried to present its defeat in Cuito as a tactical retreat. Some dubious authors have also tried to rewrite history, minimizing and even ignoring the relevance of the fight in Cuito Cuanavale. But the African revolutionaries never had doubts about who won the battle and its relevance.

African leader Oliver Tambo referred to Cuito Cuanavale as the Waterloo of racist South Africa.

Nelson Mandela would say about Cuba's participation in the fighting: "Your presence and the reinforcement sent to the battle of Cuito Cuanavale have a truly historic importance (…) That overwhelming defeat of the racist army in Cuito Cuanavale gave Angola the chance to enjoy peace and consolidate its own sovereignty! The defeat of the racist army allowed the fighting people of Namibia to finally achieve their independence! The decisive defeat of the aggression forces of apartheid destroyed the myth of the invincibility of the white oppressor! (….)Cuito Cuanavale marks the turn in the struggle to rid the continent and our country of the scourge of apartheid!"

Only when Pretoria complied with the obligations agreed in the peace agreement did the withdrawal of the Cuban troops take place.

They returned to our country with their heads held high, taking with them only the friendship of the African peoples, the satisfaction of the duty accomplish many miles away from their homeland and the glorious remains of our fallen brothers and sisters.

We will never regret having written in Cuito Cuanavale one of the most beautiful pages in the history of solidarity among peoples and among revolutionaries."

Concluding his remarks Ambassador Benitez Verson thanked South Africans on behalf of the 11 million Cubans for the contribution they made to assist in the relief efforts in the aftermath of hurricane Irma, which caused severe damage to Cuba.

Other speakers at the event included the Ambassadors of Namibia and Angola, Minister Nathi Mthethwa, Former President Kgalema Motlanthe and representatives from COSATU, ANC, SACP and FOCUS.



October/November 2019











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