The South African government’s intention to donate R50 million for Cuba, temporarily on hold following a court order, was an agenda item at last week’s Cabinet meeting with a commitment to argue for its withdrawal.
According to a Cabinet statement the granting of an interim order “pausing” implementation of humanitarian aid from South Africa was noted. “The matter will again be before the courts in 20 days’ time and government will present its argument then.”
Explaining the humanitarian aid, the statement notes: “South Africa’s bonds of friendship with Cuba are deeply rooted in our region’s struggle for liberation. Were it not for the selfless intervention of the Cubans in Southern Africa over three decades, it would have taken far longer to liberate this region from colonial oppression. Former President Nelson Mandela understood this, which is why Cuba was the first country outside the continent Madiba visited upon his release from prison in 1990.
“Cuba made monumental sacrifices to fight alongside African liberation movements at a time when the small island nation had been struggling under the United States’ economic embargo for a decade and a half. Cuba’s economic crisis has become untenable and the Cuban government is in need of assistance. Mexico, Bolivia and Russia are among the countries which have provided humanitarian aid to ease the island’s worst economic crisis in decades.”
In a reminder of what the current government sees as the Cuban role in and on the sub-continent, the statement makes mention of the Battle of Cuito Cuanavale in Angola between1987 and 1988.
“Cuba played a critical role in assisting African liberation movements to realise their objectives. There was no material gain for the Cubans who came to our support, but their overriding incentive was to fight for the liberation of Southern Africa from colonial and reactionary forces. Then President Fidel Castro was driven by revolutionary zeal and told his comrades they were fighting ‘the most beautiful cause of mankind’. From Angola to Namibia and Algeria to Guinea Bissau, Cuba played a decisive role in contributing to the liberation of these African countries from colonial occupation.
“Cuba continues to consistently provide medical and other assistance to South Africa in the post-1994 period, most recently during the COVID-19 pandemic. It is our moral obligation to show solidarity with the people of Cuba at a time when they are struggling to survive.”
The donation is facilitated by the African Renaissance and International Co-operation Fund (ARF) of Minister Naledi Pandor’s Department of International Relations and Co-operation (DIRCO). It is in response to an appeal from the Caribbean Island nation which is currently suffering food, fuel, medicine, and electricity shortages.