Fidel Castro, a leader the world should emulate
GEOGRAPHICALLY Cuba is a speck of land in the Caribbean but it is a huge country in terms of ideological consciousness, the art, or science, of self-sufficiency and defiance to foreign aggression. The island nation’s 11 million population are a valiant people, their valiancy embodied by their iconic former leader, Cde Fidel Castro. He led a 1959 revolution that overthrew an Americanbacked dictator, survived 11 US administrations, 638 assassination attempts and 49 years of sanctions by Cuba’s giant neighbour.
The greatest survivor this world has ever seen, an archetypal revolutionary and an inspiration to the oppressed, Cde Castro died on Friday aged 90.
“At 10:29 at night, the chief commander of the Cuban revolution, Fidel Castro Ruz, died,” said his brother and successor Raul. “Ever onward, to victory.” Indeed survivors don’t come any bigger. Cde Castro was a brilliant revolutionary who defied the technologically advanced US killing machine. He led an ordinary life, eschewing Western symbols of wealth.
Cuba lies about 300km from imperial US but has refused to bow down to its wealthier and meddlesome neighbour. What the US has managed to do in far off lands overthrowing governments it does not like has failed in Cuba, a Communist nation whose development trajectory contrasts sharply with the one that rules in America, one that it imposes worldwide.
Cde Castro led a three-year armed revolution against a US-backed president, Fulgencio Batista who fled Havana on New Year’s Day in 1959. A bearded, cigar smoking 33-year-old took over. A few months later, he “committed his second crime” against the US when he nationalised American companies that controlled the Cuban economy. This infuriated the US who responded by ordering oil firms owned by Americans but were operating in Cuba not to sell the commodity to the Cuban economy.
Refusing to be cowed by the Americans, Cde Castro signed agreements with the then Soviet Union for the supply of oil. The US sponsored a military coup which Cde Castro thwarted in April 1961. Shortly after that Cde Castro infuriated the US more by formally declaring his country a Communist state. The antagonism intensified, highlighted by a string of assassination attempts on Cde Castro and the world’s longest and bitterest economic embargo.
Zimbabwe has a lot to learn from the man and his country’s defeat of sanctions.
Cde Castro and his Cuba supported our armed struggle. He supported in science education post-independence. Hundreds of Zimbabweans trained as teachers of science in Cuba. The training was localised when the Bindura University of Science Education was established in 1996. The liberation struggle might not have progressed as it did, ending in victory for the oppressed, if Cde Castro had not given his support for our freedom fighters.
It is partly thanks to his magnanimity that Zimbabwe attained independence on April 18, 1980. It is partly because of his magnanimity that science education developed so much over the years.
Economic sanctions can bite, they can collapse a country. However, the indefatigable Cde Castro and his people have fought them since 1959 to the extent that we can declare that they actually defeated them. Despite the sanctions, Cuba has one of the world’s best health delivery systems. Science has also blossomed despite the sanctions. We learn that illegal sanctions can be defeated.
This is a valuable lesson for Zimbabwe having been under sanctions since 2000 when almost like Cuba under Cde Castro nationalising US-owned companies nationalised whiteowned land for redistribution to indigenous blacks.
Never mind the geographical proximity of Cuba to the US, the Caribbean nation has stood firm. Zimbabwe has suffered Western sanctions for 16 years. The economy is struggling as a result, but the people have always stood by their Government.
President Mugabe, who left Harare yesterday for the burial of Cde Castro in Havana on Saturday, was comrade in arms with the icon.
“Fidel Castro was a great leader, a revolutionary and a great friend of Africa and the downtrodden people of the world,” said Cde Chen Chimutengwende, patron of the Zimbabwe-Cuba Friendship Association.
“He was certainly a global game-changer in world politics. Cde Castro was a leader of a small country, but his contribution in the politics of this world was much greater for a leader of such a small country. He was even able to challenge a world power like United States of America which failed to do anything about him. He was a highly respected cadre among the revolutionaries of the world. Cde Castro supported the African liberation struggle more than any other revolutionary in the world. That is the reason why the world is going to miss an iconic leader like him.”
May Cde Castro’s soul rest in eternal peace.