Mandela maintained close links with Cuba. Recalling his words when he visited the western Cuban province of Matanzas in 1991 when he said, “Cuba has a special place in the heart of the African people”.
The speech of the South African hero on July 26 of 1991 in Matanzas was a whole-hearted recognition of the support by the Cuban people for the struggle for emancipation of the entire African continent.
Facing his colleague and friend Fidel Castro, Mandela said on that occasion that Cuban internationalism made a contribution to independence, freedom and justice in Africa, which was incomparable characterized as it was by the principle of selflessness.
On that occasion, when the people of Cuba marked the 30th anniversary of the 1959 triumph of the revolution. Mandela said: “From the beginning, the Cuban Revolution was a source of inspiration for all freedom-loving peoples. I admired the sacrifice of the Cuban people in preserving their Independence and sovereignty in the face of imperialist campaigns aimed at destroying the impressive achievements of the Cuban Revolution”.
Madiba, as his people also called him, went on to address the essential difference between the presence of Cuban internationalists in Africa and nationals of other countries, who were there to exploit its natural resources.
Nelson Mandela was awarded the Nobel Peace prize in 1993.
South Africa and Cuba have enjoyed stable bilateral cooperation in many fields since Mandela was elected president in 1994, cooperation that is ongoing.
The relationship between the South African leader and Fidel Castro was one of the most emotional chapters during the visits by the Cuban leader to South Africa.
“Fidel is my Friend”, Mandela used to say whenever the two men met.
Fidel first visited South Africa in May 1994 to attend Mandela’s swearing-in ceremony, he went again in 1998 and then in 2001. During his stay in 1998 Fidel gave a speech in which he said that Nelson Mandela would not fade into history because in 27 years in prison he did not renounce his ideas. Fidel said that Mandela will be remembered in history because what he did renounce was any hard feelings that such unjust punishment could have sown in his heart.
Fidel praised the generosity and wisdom with which Mandela led his heroic people. The Leader of the Cuban Revolution said that Mandela was fully aware that a new South Africa could not be built on foundations of hatred nor of revenge.