Mandela and Fidel Castro -footage including Madiba wearing Cuban shirt at rally

In 1991 Nelson Mandela, as newly elected ANC president, succeeding the ailing Oliver Tambo, visited various Latin American states. I was part of the back up on that tour. In Cuba the meeting with Fidel Castro saw an immediate bonding between the two. At the rally to celebrate the attack on the Moncada barracks, Mandela wore the Cuban Guayabera shirt, as seen in the clip. Mandela thanked Cuba for their support to liberation movements, notably in the battle of Cuito Cuanavale where the South African Defence Force was defeated and pushed out of Angola. Fidel responded to Mandela with a very warm tribute to his qualities.

When the ANC delegation met with Fidel and his aides,Madiba gave a summary of the process of negotiations. Then he said that the ANC could still walk out of the talks. Fidel, who had listened very attentively, responded by asking, what would the strategy then be to arrive at the ANC’s goals? Mandela did not have an answer, for he may have merely raised the option without any sense of it being realistic for he was committed to the negotiations succeeding. In some ways it appeared like the a resurfacing of the impetuous younger Mandela, albeit purely in conversation.

In the course of the visit, posters of Mandela were everywhere and songs were composed in his honour. On a visit to a sports complex, Mandela whose boxing persona remained very much part of his identity, asked ‘what has happened to Stevenson?’ referring to the famous Cuban heavyweight who won the olympic title three times. Fidel responded that Stevenson was there and called him up to where they were standing and the two boxers embraced.

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