Cape Town - The ANC sent felicitations to Cuban leader Fidel Castro for his 90th birthday on Saturday."The African National Congress (ANC) joins the peoples and revolutionary movements of the Global South in celebrating the 90th birthday of the great Cuban Leader and Revolutionary, Commandate Fidel Castro Ruz," said Edna Molewa, who chairs the party's NEC sub-committee on international relations.Molewa referred to the long relationship between southern and South Africa, and Cuba, in the time of liberation wars from colonialist rule and racist administrations, and Cuba's training of doctors for South African hospitals."Under [Castro's] leadership, the Communist Party of Cuba and the Cuban people were among the strongest supporters of South Africa's struggle for liberation, lending various forms of material and political support to the liberation forces during the dark days of apartheid."Today the ANC reaffirms our solidarity with the Cuban people, who continue to suffer as a result of an illegal and inhumane commercial, economic and financial embargo stretching over five decades."Molewa said South Africa and Cuba have had formal country-to-country relations for the past 20 years, with party-to-party relations between the ANC and the Communist Party of Cuba going back further.In September 1998, Castro addressed the National Assembly during the Nelson Mandela administration, but the sitting was boycotted by the Democratic Party (now the Democratic Alliance) at the time.In an extract from his speech prepared for delivery he said: "Nelson Mandela will not go down in history for the 27 consecutive years that he lived imprisoned without ever renouncing his ideas. He will go down in history because he was able to draw from his soul all the poison accumulated by such an unjust punishment''.He also lamented the disparities between the rich and the poor, in a copy of the speech posted on the SA Communist Party's website.In 2012, the health department in the Western Cape, which is governed by the DA, announced it would not send students on the Cuba medical training programme.It said the courses added a year to their training because they had to assimilate the Spanish in which they were taught, and because it could not afford the cost, which was for the Western Cape government's account.According to Unisa, Cuba acted as part of an Eastern bloc led by the Soviet Union which led an international campaign, to isolate the South African government during the anti-apartheid era, and had a strong military presence in Africa.The ANC credits a brief encounter between Castro's brother Raul and US President Barack Obama at Mandela's memorial service in Johannesburg in 2013 as the ice breaker toward the mending of ties between Cuba and the US.Raul Castro has taken over leadership of the country, and he and Obama briefly shook hands at the memorial service.Molewa said Fidel Castro's leadership remained an inspiration to revolutionary movements worldwide that were committed to the values of egalitarianism and social justice for all."The African National Congress continues to draw inspiration from his leadership. May he have a long life," she said.