A true communist worth remembering
Aclearly moved and unusually emotional Blade Nzimande, the general secretary of the SA Communist Party (SACP), who attended Fidel Castro’s funeral earlier this month, said: “Of course, he was 90 and not well. We all knew he was going to pass on. But somehow, being there, you felt it was not happening – that he was still alive! He seemed to be there, looming as large as ever, in the spirit of the Cuban people. And maybe that’s true. People like him never really die.
“And for me to be there, at his graveside, among about 100 people, was a great honour and a very humbling experience. It was inspirational.”
Castro was buried in Santiago de Cuba, where the 26th of July Movement he led launched the armed struggle in 1953. He was born in Biran not far from Santiago de Cuba.
“That Comrade Castro was buried in Santiago de Cuba symbolises, I think, the importance of the armed struggle in waging national liberation struggles against oppressive regimes. That he was buried near his birthplace also symbolises his rootedness among ordinary people, which was a hallmark of his leadership,” Nzimande said.
He said that more than 500 000 people attended the funeral rally in the main square of Santiago de Cuba.
“You had this enormous sense of loyalty to Fidel and the Cuban revolution. Many people were very emotional at the funeral. One of the great contributions Fidel and his comrades made was to build a strong sense of nationhood among the Cuban people, something so lacking in our country. And what Cuba shows is that strong internationalism and a strong sense of national sovereignty can go hand in hand.”
Cuba’s President Raúl Castro was the main speaker at the funeral. Other speakers included representatives of the Committees for the Defence of the Revolution, veterans, students, writers, artists and farmers.
“As President Raúl spoke, it struck me that we in this country don’t know enough about him. Yet he’s such a crucial figure in the Cuban Revolution. He was there with Fidel at the launch of the armed struggle. Interestingly, unlike Fidel then, Raúl was in the youth wing of the Communist Party, and he played an influential role in winning Fidel and others over to merging with the Communist Party.”
Nzimande said that it was hard to accept that Castro’s ashes represented the world leader. Yet it was also very moving: “Fidel’s ashes, in a small glass box, were put into a huge rock on which was inscribed a quote from him.” Nzimande noticed that, “on the bus returning to Havana, [former Argentinian footballer] Diego Maradona was wearing shorts and had a tattoo of Castro on his left leg”.
SACP treasurer Joyce Moloi-Moropa said: “Unforgettable, unforgettable! That outpouring of love for Castro was like when Madiba died, but also different in the huge commitment to the Cuban revolution, even with all the problems.”
Northern Cape SACP secretary Norman Shushu said: “What also makes Fidel great is his insistence that he didn’t want a statute erected of him or a road, clinic, building or anything named after him. He requested that the Cuban Parliament passes a law preventing this from happening.”
Limpopo SACP secretary Gilbert Kganyago added: “The Cubans died in Angola for us, and they didn’t ask for oil concessions or anything. I was glad to pay my respects.”
Nzimande smilingly recalled: “It’s said that [Soviet Communist Party leader Leonid] Brezhnev was once asked if Castro was really a communist. He replied: ‘What I know is that I’m a Fidelist.’”
“Ultimately,” said Nzimande, “Fidel’s death is a powerful reminder of the need to maintain popular support for national liberation and socialist struggles, and for us in this country to reconnect with the people.” Carrim is an ANC MP and an SACP Politburo member who edits its journals TALK TO US Do you agree with Nzimande that a sense of nationhood is lacking in SA? SMS us on 35697 using the keyword CASTRO and tell us what you think. Please include your name and province. SMSes cost R1.50
A woman commemorates Fidel Castro in Cuba on December 2. Her banner reads: ‘The young will not fail’