Cuba’s close relations with the South African government can be traced to its support of African liberation movements following the overthrow of Cuban dictator Fulgencio Batista in 1959 by “The Movement”, formed by late longtime Cuban leader Fidel Castro who died on Friday.
ALSO READ: Cuban revolutionary leader Fidel Castro dies
Che Guevara’s trip around the continent in 1963 was a seminal turning point in consolidating Cuba’s relationship with liberation movements around Africa. He was one of the major figures of the Cuban Revolution.
Cuba supported the anti-apartheid struggle in the country opposing racial segregation. It criticised the international community for ignoring SA’s human rights’ violations.
Cuba also condemned SA’s apartheid government at international summits several times calling for the overthrow of the discriminatory and oppressive policy in its diplomatic interventions.
SA had violated the Charter of the United Nations by the “inhuman and fascist policy of apartheid”, Guevara emphatically declared at the UN’s 1961 Conference on Trade and Development in Geneva, Switzerland, calling for SA’s expulsion from the world body.
Cubans trained African National Congress (ANC) cadres at Nova Catengue in Angola, instructing them in guerrilla warfare in 1977.
The late president Nelson Mandela and former South African Communist Party (SACP) leader Chris Hani have credited the country for helping SA during the struggle for a free and non-racial country.
Former SACP chief Joe Slovo held increasingly frequent meetings with the Cubans, the party had established relations with the Caribbean island from the 1970s.
Cuba has extensively collaborated with SA on its public health system. In May 2012 Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi and his Cuban counterpart, Roberto Morales Ojeda, signed an agreement to strengthen the department of health’s strategic interventions in the areas of implementing the National Health Insurance (NHI), and overhauling the healthcare system by refocusing on primary healthcare and improving functionality and management.
In November 2015 SA and Cuba entered into an agreement to increase the level of trade and investment between the two countries.
Former deputy minister of trade and industry, Mzwandile Masina, and Ileana Nunez Mordoche, the Cuban Vice Minister of Foreign Trade and Investment opened the South African Pavilion at the Havana International Trade Fair.
ALSO READ: Timeline – Fidel Castro’s life
Masina said the South African government was concerned about the low trade between the two countries which stood at R49 million, and would work closely with Cuba on the 140 products that had been identified for trade between the two countries.
“South Africa and Cuba have been good friends for a long time,” Mordoche said. “At the political level our relationship is excellent but there is a strong need for us to work together more in order to enhance our economic relations and increase bilateral trade between our countries.”