A people’s Parliament is a Parliament about people, always thinking progressively about ways of improving the living conditions of the people it represents. It’s a Parliament that must build strategic relations with the world for the benefit of the people it represents, that is what the Deputy Speaker of the National Assembly, Mr Lechesa Tsenoli, said in his opening remarks at the public lecture that was delivered by the outgoing Cuban Ambassador, Mr Carlos Fernandez de Cossio, to South Africa at Parliament yesterday.
In welcoming Mr De Cossio and his family and the lecture attendees, Mr Tsenoli said last year (2016) marked the 20th anniversary of the watershed and historic agreement that was reached by Presidents Nelson Mandela and Fidel Castro on solid bilateral relationship between the South African and Cuban governments. He said Presidents Mandela and Castro’s spirit of development and the continued good relationship between South Africa and Cuba is still going on.
Mr Tsenoli said the fifth Parliament retains the character of being a people’s Parliament, a character he said was initiated by Nelson Mandela and other disciples of democracy and transformation. He said very early in its history, the Parliament of the Republic of South Africa unapologetically passed a historic and progressive resolution to support the governments of Cuba and [the State of] Palestine.
The public lecture, which was attended by Members of Parliament, the Ambassador of the Republic of Venezuela to South Africa, the Cuban society in the Western Cape and friends of Cuba, members of different political parties and ordinary South Africans who support the Cuban people in their struggles, was hosted by the Office of the Deputy Speaker of the National Assembly.
Delivering his lecture, Mr De Cossio appreciated the creation of the occasion of the public lecture, referring to it as a strategic moment that symbolised in its way a demonstration of deep commitment to the continued friendly relationship between South Africa and Cuba. He said he always feel overwhelmed by the high level of trust and confidence the South African government and South Africans in general have on Cuba. “This meeting is a clear expression which adds to other countless expressions of your support and love to Cuba,” he said.
Mr De Cossio traced the relationship between South Africa and Cuba in the years before the Rivonia Trial and the sentence to life imprisonment of Nelson Mandela and other Rivonia Treason Trialists. ”Even before that time there were South Africans who were trained in different areas of life in Cuba for the creation of a post-apartheid South Africa,” said Mr De Cossio.
The relationship that comes from that time has, according to Mr De Cossio, translated itself into many tangible and concrete historical gains for both countries. For Cubans he said the continued moral support from South Africa delivered, among other things, the release of the Cuban 5 and shaken the years long US (United States) economic embargo against Cuba. He said the South African support for the release of the Cuban 5 is beyond expression in words. He said South Africans showed a lot of emotional support towards the release of the Cuban 5.
The Cuban government has programmes in different fields in South Africa that include health, where there are more than 394 doctors who are placed in different provinces, human settlements where there are a number of Cuban engineers who are placed in different provinces assisting in many aspects of human settlements, water and sanitation where Cuban water and sanitation skills are used – and in defence and security.
Saluting the late Ernesto “Che” Guevara, the selfless Argentinian revolutionary who died on 9 October 1967 – this year marks the 50th anniversary of his death – Mr De Cossio urged South Africans to encourage the youth to read the history of “Che” Guevara. He said “Che” Guevara believed in the values of justice, peace, transformation and freedom. He said he believed that if the youth can learn “Che’ Guevara’s ideology and emulate his spirit, South Africa can reach new heights of freedom and nation-building.
Mr De Cossio, who is going back to Cuba, became the Ambassador of Cuba to South Africa in 2012. He said he was very excited to be an Ambassador of Cuba to South Africa given the long history of strategic relations between the two countries. He said Cuba takes its relationship with South Africa very seriously and said Cuba is always prepared to go an extra mile in its support for South Africa. “Cuba deviated from its principle of non-participation in United Nations missions of observer status during election times in countries. But participated in that mission in South Africa in 1994,” he said.
By Mava Lukani
12 October 2017