President Jacob Zuma has described the death of Fidel Castro as a painful loss for South Africans.

Joining the various heads of state and government who addressed a memorial service for the late former Cuban president at Plaza de la Revolucion here Tuesday, he lauded the late Castro as “one of the greatest revolutionaries of our time and one of the greatest heroes of the 20th century”.

“The passing of Comrade Fidel is a painful loss for the South African people. He stood with us in solidarity, supporting our struggle, including the international campaign to isolate the apartheid regime. We knew that we could rely on Cuba, a trusted friend and ally of the oppressed,” said President Zuma.

Cuba deployed close to half a million soldiers and officers in Africa to support the struggles for national independence or against foreign aggression over a span of 30 years.

In particular, Cuba’s Angolan intervention stands out as the greatest example of international solidarity which changed the course of history, said President Zuma.

” We will remember Comrade Fidel as a great fighter for the ideal that the poor have a right to live in dignity. That is why the Cuban Revolution was and still remains an inspiration to South Africa and the world on how to achieve a better life for the poor,” he added.

“Today Cuba has higher health standards than many developed countries. It has sent thousands of its doctors to many parts of the world.

“South Africa has gained many Cuban doctors in our hospitals and clinics, often in the most remote areas of our country. In addition, many of our youth have qualified as medical practitioners in Cuba and many are continuing to study in this country.

“Cuba had also opened the doors of its schools and universities for the education of many South Africans during our days in exile.”

The President said South Africa admired Cuba’s unique value system, which includes a deep sense of patriotism. “Go well Comrade Fidel! You have run your race. You have fought a good fight. May your soul now rest in eternal peace,” said President Zuma.

The Presidency said on Tuesday condolence books have been placed at the offices of the President, at the Union Buildings in Pretoria and Tuynhuys in Cape Town, and at the offices of the Premiers throughout the country for members of the public to express their condolences.


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