AFTER Nelson Mandela was released from 1991 in preparation for the formal interment of the apartheid system, he embarked on a world tour to thank governments and peoples who had supported the South African freedom struggle.
In Havana he extolled Fidel Castro as a “source of inspiration to all freedom-loving people.”
Later in the US, during the Ted Koppel show in front of a live TV audience, Mandela was questioned by neocon diplomat and political analyst Ken Adelman, asking whether Fidel Castro — and for good measure — Muammar Gadaffi and Yasser Arafat, the Libyan and Palestinian leaders, were “your models of leaders of human rights.”
Mandela responded: “One of the mistakes that political analysts make is to think that their enemies should be our enemies. That we can and we will never do.”
He added that these US bugbears had supported “our struggle to the hilt … They don’t only support it in rhetoric. They are placing resources at our disposal to win the fight.”
Cuba’s internationalism had already impressed itself on him when serving a life sentence on Robben Island and heard of Cuba’s military intervention in Angola in 1975 in support of the MPLA liberation government against the apartheid South African invaders who were closing in on the capital Luanda.
Mandela told a rally in the Cuban city of Matanzas that Africans were “used to being victims of countries that want to take from us our territory or overthrow our sovereignty. In African history there is not another instance where another people has stood up for one of ours.”