ANC 'too preoccupied' to celebrate Fidel properly - Mapisa-Nqakula

2016-12-01 15:44
Defence minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula ahead of her speech in the Old Assembly during ANC caucus tribute to Fidel Castro. (Paul Herman, News24)

Defence minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula ahead of her speech in the Old Assembly during ANC caucus tribute to Fidel Castro. (Paul Herman, News24)

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Cape Town - Defence Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula says the ANC has been too preoccupied with its own internal struggles to mobilise people to attend memorial services for late Cuban leader Fidel Castro.

Mapisa-Nqakula was speaking at an ANC caucus tribute to Castro in the Old Assembly in Parliament on Thursday. Castro died on Friday, aged 90.

She told her colleagues that there was a tendency for the movement to forget its heroes.

"We have forgotten some of our people, some of those that led the struggle, and even some of those that led Umkhonto we Sizwe," she said.

"I listened to many memorial speeches yesterday around the country. The question I want to ask is, why could we, the leaders, not mobilise thousands of people to fill up these venues?"

She said this following multiple memorials held for the late Cuban leader on Wednesday. 

She said she was disappointed by the turnout, especially in Khayelitsha in Cape Town, where only about 1 000 people attended.

"I don't want to believe that South Africans are snobbish. I think we are a very loving nation. But I think we could have done more in the past few days for the celebration of the life of Fidel.

"If we were not preoccupied with our own internal challenges, I think we could have done better."

ANC 'forgetting bigger picture'

She said the party's preoccupation was making them forget the bigger picture.

"We did not liberate this country to ask each other, 'which faction do you belong to?'" she said to applause from her colleagues.

She said criticism and self-criticism were both important, but different from each other.

During her speech, she also quoted former president Nelson Mandela in describing the ANC's attitude towards Castro.

In a town hall meeting in 1990 in the US, Mandela told the audience that leaders like Castro had supported the struggle against apartheid "to the hilt".

Mapisa-Nqakula said she was happy that the party and the country's ties with Cuba were still strong.

She praised the training Cuban professionals were giving many South Africans in engineering and medicine.

Mapisa-Nqakula closed her speech by asking the ANC MPs: "Is the national democratic revolution still on track?" She asked MPs to leave the negative energy behind.

"We will restore the dignity of the African National Congress," she promised. Comrades did not have to feel like they are doomed. They can fight back, but with "dignity and respect".

Cuba's aid to apartheid struggle

The majority of the ruling party's 249 MPs were in attendance.

Cabinet ministers Derek Hanekom, Ebrahim Patel, Rob Davies, Michael Masutha, Lindiwe Zulu and Naledi Pandor were all present at the caucus tribute.  

Deputy Minister of Public Works and SACP member Jeremy Cronin recounted the historical ties that leaders like Mandela shared with Castro.

He said Mandela, although not from the poorest of the poor, lived among them, and great leaders and revolutionaries emerged from those conditions.

"Many of these great leaders did not survive their struggle. They became martyrs of the struggle," he said, making Mandela and Castro's achievements more remarkable.

Cronin remarked that the ANC was in deep crisis in the late 1960s, but that, around 1975, armed resistance and the purchasing of weapons and ammunition from Cuba had helped move the resistance along.

"Untimely action, is better than timely inaction. If the ANC had not launched a response through MK after decades of protests, none of us would have been sitting in Parliament today."

Cronin referenced a speech in 1953, when a young Castro said "history will absolve me".

'Absolutely selfless'

He said that the "bold" Castro, having started his revolution with 81 people, lost all but 19 of them after an ambush in Havana. With those 19, they sparked a revolution through guerrilla warfare.

Cronin said the ANC could learn from Cuba when they reference the "National Democratic Revolution", admitting that they sometimes did not know what they meant when they said it.

He said the Cuban army in Angola hadn't requested a share in the country's industries after it helped them win the war in the 1970s. They were "absolutely selfless".

Castro was always a staunch advocate of saving the planet, he said. "He would say, capitalism and imperialism is creating a planet that cannot survive."

ANC caucus chairperson Seiso Mohai also spoke, as well as Sanco president Richard Mdakane.

Mohai said Castro's unparalleled stature was intrinsically bound up with the aspirations, hopes and struggles of the people of Africa.

He was the biggest inspiration to the poor in the struggle for freedom.

Castro will be buried in Havana on Friday. His remains have been toured through Cuba as part of farewell proceedings over the last two days.

Multi-party delegation to go to Cuba

ANC chief whip Jackson Mthembu closed the session with a few administrative points for his caucus.

He said Parliament would be debating a motion of condolence for Castro on Thursday.

It had also resolved to send a multi-party delegation to Cuba on Sunday to mourn with the Cuban people, despite objections from "other people", indicating the DA.

"Some people did not want us to do so. We said, whether you like it or not, we are debating this motion," he said to applause.

The delegation will be lead by deputy speaker Lechesa Tsenoli.

Read more on:    anc  |  nosiviwe mapisa-nqakula  |  fidel castro

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