Notes for Minister of Defence and Military Veterans, Ms LN Sisulu, at the signing of the Agreement on Defence Cooperation between the Government of the Republic of South Africa and the Government of the Republic of Cuba, on 10 January 2012, Pretoria

10 January 2012

The Vice President of the Council of Ministers - Mr Ulises Rosales Del Toro
Your Excellency Ambassador to South Africa
Secretary for Defence Dr S Gulube
Chief of the South African National Defence Force
Ladies and Gentlemen,

Let me take this opportunity and welcome you to our Defence Headquarters and extend our gratitude to the President of the Republic of Cuba and its people. Thank you for accepting our request to help us conclude our commitment to defence relations.

Right from the onset, Mr Vice President allow me to extend my and our country’s sincerest condolences to the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Cuba and the people of Cuba for the passing away last year of an outstanding revolutionary, the late Minister of Defence of Cuba, General Julio Casas Regueiro.

I worked with him over a short but intense period of time with very impressive and concrete outcomes. I learnt of his contribution to the Cuban struggle, I learnt of his entire family’s contribution. I wished I could have been there to pay my last respects to his family on his passing. Please convey our fondest regards to his wife and family.

Mr Vice President, this is a very proud and significant occasion for us, as we commit on a long outstanding matter that we are dealing with today. Because we as South Africans are bound by a very strong bond cemented by a special relationship with your country and its people. It does not need repeating that Cuba has played as significant role in the fight against colonialism in the Southern Africa region.

We share very strong bonds of international solidarity which we forged during the fight against apartheid and for the liberation of our sub-continent. It will not be easy to forget the sacrifices made by the Cuban people for the emancipation of our people.

The relationship we have with you was glued by the blood and sweat of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Cuba, who laid their lives and paid the supreme price for the freedom of the South African people and those of the region.

Our people pride themselves for having associated this country with the proud victories of the Cuban people and today your heroes like President Castro and Che are prominent in our people’s minds each time we talk about revolutionaries. I need to express my country’s profound appreciation and gratitude for the enormous support given to us by the Cuban people. We in Defence are an amalgam of all the Forces that we inherited on the assumption of Freedom.

The greater part of the non-statutory forces that form the Defence Force were trained by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Cuba, because we are the sum of everything we have been, we can confirm that the culture of the Cuban Forces lives in us and we take great pride in that. Mr Vice President, we have just celebrated our centenary two days ago and it is befitting today that we are signing the defence cooperation. We would not have reached this important milestone without your contribution to our struggle for the liberation of our country.

Since the establishment of our diplomatic relations in 1994, between our two countries there have been numerous exchanges, visits and training programmes that have taken place. As recent as last month a part of our defence force members completed immigration training by the Cubans and have been migrated to the Department of Home Affairs.

When President Zuma was in Cuba he pledged that South Africa would do everything to ensure that our fraternal relations are further strengthened. We meet to do the same here today. I recently had the amazing honour bestowed on me by the Cuban Government.
I was invited to the 50th Anniversary of the Bay of Pigs – it was a magnificent disciplined show of unity, commitment and pride by the people of Cuba who came to salute President Raul Castro.

We are honoured that you are here in our country as we celebrate the 100th year of the founding of the oldest liberation movement on the African continent. In time, our people will learn from your people about discipline because without that revolution dissipates.

This Agreement on Defence Cooperation between our forces further cements this relation even further in pursuit of joint collaboration in the areas of defence and security. The agreement we are signing today reflects many programmes that we need to undertake and push them to greater heights.

This Agreement we sign today is a product of our discussion on my visit to Cuba. A great deal of discussion has gone into the elements of the agreement. We have very deliberately inserted a clause that will allow for any amendment should we discover any need to do so.

Of significance, is the cooperation in areas such as, military veterans, defence industries, military health, and training and exchange programmes. These and many others must be pursued with vigour and the enthusiasm it deserves.

Furthermore, of greater importance for us is to learn from you about the citizen force which will make our people responsible during any human and man-made disaster at any given time. More so we would like our young people to learn and understand form the Cuban value system, including the deep sense of patriotism and the culture and work ethics.

We must therefore through this agreement heighten our exchanges in all these fields to ensure that we gain the much needed expertise form your experience over the years. I am proud that the South African National Defence Force has a very close ally and associate in the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Cuba, and do believe that we will both reap the dividends through the cooperation.

It is my contention Mr Vice President that we can learn a great deal from the Armed Forces of Cuban and I believe that Cuban can, as it has always, contribute and share her expertise with our defence forces to the benefit not only of South Africa but the region and the continent at large.

These lessons from the armed forces will enhance our endeavour to build a strong and a caring defence force in line with its mandate of defending the territorial integrity of the republic and securing itself. Furthermore help contribute to the building of a strong South African nation.

I look forward to a very strong and forever lasting family of Cuba and South Africa relationship that continues to grow in leaps and bounds.

We extend our gratitude to the newly appointed Minister of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Cuba, Mr Leopoldo, Cintra Frias and the Armed Forces of Cuba and wish to extend an invitation to him to visit South Africa, through you Mr Vice President.

I thank you.