(Following is a speech by South African president Nelson Mandela to the opening of the Southern Africa-Cuba Solidarity Conference, which took place in Johannesburg October 6-8. The text was transcribed by the Militant from a tape recording. Subheadings are by the Militant.)
Comrades, chairperson, and delegates,Some time ago, in the past five years, an African leader visited a country, I won’t say on which continent, but I will say that the visitor waved back to the crowds as their host head of state had them tour through the streets. There were huge crowds. And they cheered the two leaders.
At that moment the host just laughed and said to the visitor, “These cheers are not meant for you, they are meant for me.” [Laughter]
I went to Cuba in July 1991, and I drove through the streets with Fidel Castro. There were a great deal of cheers. And I also waved back believing that these cheers were for me. [Laughter] Fidel was very humble, he smiled but he never said a word. [Laughter] But when I reached the square where I had to make some remarks to the crowd, then I realized that these cheers were not meant for me, they were meant for Fidel Castro. Because everybody forgot about me, and was really aroused by Fidel Castro.
Then I realized that here was a man of the masses. Because he went around shaking hands of a large number of people in the crowd. And all of them rejoiced in the excitement of the time.
Those are the impressions I have about Fidel Castro in Cuba. [Applause]