On death and liv­ing to fight an­other day

CityPress - - Voices - Paddy Harper voices@city­press.co.za Fol­low me on Twit­ter @Pad­dyHarper1

The Beard [Fidel Cas­tro] with­stood in­va­sions, as­sas­si­na­tion plots and eco­nomic block­ades

Wed­nes­day, 6am. It’s over­cast and cold, but there’s a south­west wind work­ing up a sweat right on the sand­bank about 200m out to sea on North Beach. I’m wal­low­ing on my back and look­ing at the clouds while wait­ing for the next set, and I’m think­ing.

I should be think­ing about in­ter­view­ing the win­ner of some TV singing con­test – my pun­ish­ment for hav­ing a soft di­ary on Tues­day morn­ing. I blame the ANC for not re­call­ing the Com­man­der in Chief (that’s Pres­i­dent Jacob Zuma to you) at the end of the week­end’s na­tional ex­ec­u­tive com­mit­tee meet­ing. That would def­i­nitely have meant a trip to Nxa­m­alala to see if Zuma’s turned the pozzie into a B&B yet – and how much he’s gonna charge for a night in the bunker, and whether or not Khu­lubuse’s cleaned the fire pool in time for the De­cem­ber hol­i­day. Al­though, given the cur­rent mood of his bros in­side and out­side the ANC, I’d prob­a­bly get kicked to un­con­scious­ness for my ef­forts.

I should be think­ing about TV singers. I’m not. My mind’s fully oc­cu­pied by The Beard (that’s El Com­man­dant Fidel Ale­jan­dro Cas­tro Ruz, or just plain Fidel Cas­tro, to you).

Me, I dug The Beard from the first time I heard about him, cour­tesy of a his­tory teacher called Vic Matthews. Vic reck­oned The Beard was a bad cat, not be­cause of the way he rocked blue-and-white Adi­das track­suit tops with his fa­tigues and a Co­hiba Es­plen­dido, but be­cause he was a com­mu­nist who didn’t be­lieve in white supremacy or apartheid, both of which Vic dug. I was a laaitie, but I’d al­ready had my fill of wit ous in gen­eral and Vic in par­tic­u­lar, so The Beard was my man.

I un­der­stand why the wit ous, here and in the US, hate The Beard so much. I don’t think there’s any­body in his­tory who took white supremacy in its var­i­ous forms apart at the seams the way The Beard did. The Beard kicked the Mafia out of Cuba, closed the casi­nos and whore­houses, and started build­ing clin­ics and schools.

The Beard ran a so­cial­ist state on Un­cle Sam’s cap­i­tal­ist and im­pe­ri­al­ist doorstep. The Beard with­stood in­va­sions, as­sas­si­na­tion plots and eco­nomic block­ades, and still man­aged to ex­port rev­o­lu­tion through­out Latin Amer­ica and Africa. The Beard de­stroyed the un­til then in­vin­ci­ble SA Defence Force at Cuito Cua­navale with a black-and-brown army backed by Soviet sub­hu­mans, smash­ing the apartheid regime’s mil­i­tary ma­chine and break­ing it psy­cho­log­i­cally.

The Beard was cool. The Beard is gone. As The Beard him­self said: “You can’t stop the march of his­tory.”

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