Fidel Castro: Inspiring through defiance and compassion

I will not deny that there is something emotional in my reaction to Fidel Castro (referred to as Fidel by Cubans and others who admired him) and now his death.  For me and many others he represented something more than what we have come to expect from leaders. I do not pretend to have made a full study of the strengths and weaknesses of the Cuban revolution and the uneven recognition of sexual diversity, the machoism that goes with military emphases, the unresolved issues with black Cubans, the limits of debate and other issues.  I never had proper discussions with Cubans on these questions and have not made a full study. So, I am willing to accept that not everything done under the aegis of Fidel was perfect and there may have been some inadequacies of the Cuban revolution


Fidel was a voice that the dispossessed of the world needed because vulnerability tends to lead people to lose their agency. Fidel advanced the power of defiance and inspired others to defy


But Fidel was not simply bold and defiant in the face of an enemy located a very short distance from the island of Cuba. He was a powerful intellectual. No one who reads his speeches can fail to be impressed by this.  When one reads of his relationship with people like Hugo Chavez their conversations are filled with discussion of what books they were reading.


Fidel was not a dogmatist and he engaged with liberation theologians, amongst other non-Communists and this is recorded in books.


Fidel was compassionate. It was under his leadership that Cuban solidarity gave meaning to the word internationalism, whether through 400,000 Cuban soldiers volunteering (not being drafted and many more wanting to go but not able) to fight in defence of the people of Angola and ultimately defeating the apartheid defence force and turning the tide of Southern African military history.



The internationalism was manifested in Cuban educational, and health work all over the world and in providing a home for many students from Africa, acquiring skills there, something continuing to this day.


Cuban medical solidarity is legendary. As it is said, despite their limited resources, they are always the first to arrive for a medial crisis and the last to leave. When their soldiers left Africa, as one mother said they took nothing but the remains of those who had died.


Certainly, there were and are problems that remain unresolved in Cuba but I know that there are many like me who feel the passing of Fidel emotionally for we have lost someone who cared deeply about the pain that the poor and dispossessed suffered everywhere and anywhere.  His life will inspire others to fight on and ensure that they enjoy the liberties and opportunities and resources for which Fidel devoted his life.

Armed struggle and gender in the ANC’s past and present (Polity, 21 November, 2016)

ANC divisions: Failure of MPs to pitch for vote despite attendance being compulsory

A few days ago someone suggested to me (I do not recall who it was and whether on Facebook or Twitter) that the failure of MPs to abide by a caucus ruling that they all attend to vote on the revenue legislation represented a form of revolt. I said that it was merely their being “slapgat”.

It seems that the suggestion that it was indeed a revolt is borne out by Jackson Mthembu in the Sunday Independent today, suggesting that Mthembu has lost control of the caucus. (Message in mutiny against Mthembu by Siyabonga Mkhwanazi, page 4).

“Mthembu said he did not know what led many of his MPs to dump him at the time he needed them most to pass a key bill in Parliament.

“Despite repeated attempts to get ANC MPs to come to the Chamber to vote on the Division of Revenue Amendment Bill to pass the budget, his call was ignored.”

“On two consecutive days, a number of ANC MPs refused to attend the compulsory sitting of the House, referred to as a three-line whip, to vote on an important bill.”

The article relates the absence of MPs to Mthembu’s recent call on the entire ANC leadership to resign. This may well be true. It may be that those who are defenders of the current Zuma leadership want to show their power by humiliating Mthembu as Chief Whip, either as a prelude to removing him or showing him that he will not be able to do his job if he continues with calls such as that which he made on the leadership

It is a paradox that at a time when there are so many forces waged against President Jacob Zuma he is rallying his forces in KZN and Mpumalanga, with apparent confidence. Those who oppose Zuma, who see him as a liability as evident in the recent local government elections are not yet in a position to replace him, insofar as they cannot agree on a candidate that will be accepted by the ANC as a whole now nor as a successor to Zuma. So there is a stalemate leading to occasionally public disagreements and much internal enmity

At the same time the state entities that Zuma has relied on to be a bulwark defending him, like the NPA, the Hawks and SARS are obviously under siege. It is unclear whether or not he will suspend Shaun Abrahams as head of the NPA. If he does or if the court agrees to the Helen Suzman Foundation/Freedom Under Law action for his removal and the Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA) confirms the disbarment of Jiba and Mrwebi, he is left with very few top leaders in the NPA who are close to him. There is an action being brought by the two foundations for the removal of Berning Ntlemeza, head of the Hawks in early December and if they are all removed it creates considerable difficulty for the Zuma plan to “cleanse” the Treasury and undermine the capacity of SARS.

In the period that lies ahead the SCA may well reinstate the charges against Zuma and it is up to Zuma to then appeal. It may be that he is compelled to bear the charges, personally, if he loses- following the recent developments in that regard. That limits his options, obviously.

At any rate, he will have difficulty taking it to the Constitutional Court and having it reverse the SCA decision or even hearing the matter. The NPA, under possible new leadership will also have difficulties defending Zuma and may find itself having to decide on a prosecution. In order to avoid prosecuting it will have to find grounds that make the situation very different from that covered in the original charge sheet.

Time is running out on one level, but since Zuma may well still command majority support in the ANC leadership, if not the organisation as a whole he can continue to fight back. Clearly that is his intention.

This means that seeking a solution to our present crisis from within the ANC is a difficult route, unless a range of other forces outside of the formal party political terrain supplement it.