World say goodbye in mass outpour of grief
December 1, 2016
Pretoria, South Africa: President Jacob Zuma attended the official mass memorial service for Fidel Castro in Havana joining citizens who gathered in their millions exprerssing condolences for the long time Marxist President. The president is also attending the funeral which will take place on Sunday after Castro's ashes have begun a four-day journey across Cuba from Havana to their final resting place in the eastern city of Santiago.
A small, Cuban-flag-covered cedar coffin containing the remains of the 90-year-old leader was taken out of Cuba’s defense ministry this week and placed into a flower-bedecked trailer pulled by a green military jeep for the more than 500-mile (800km) procession. The ashes will be interred on Sunday, ending the nine-day mourning period for the man who ruled the country for nearly 50 years.
The route traces in reverse the victory tour Castro and his bearded rebels took after overthrowing the forces of strongman Fulgencio Batista in 1959.
Zuma has ordered that the National Flag be flown at half-mast at the South African mission in Cuba until 4 December 2016. The Presidency has invited all South Africans to show solidarity with the people of Cuba following the passing away of Castro. Condolence books, which can be signed by the public, have been placed at the Union Buildings in Pretoria, Tuynhuys in Cape Town and at the offices of Premiers in all provinces.
Thousands of Cubans lined the streets of Havana, some sleeping on sidewalks overnight, to bid goodbye to Castro. Many had attended a massive rally on Tuesday night at Havana’s Revolution Plaza, where the presidents of Cuba, Mexico, Ecuador, Bolivia, Venezuela and South Africa, along with leaders of a host of smaller countries, offered speeches paying tribute to Castro.
Zuma at the memorial praised Cuba under Castro for its record on education and healthcare and its support for African independence struggles.
Castro not only identified with the struggle against apartheid but also inspired the Cuban people to join South Africans in the struggle.
After South Africa gained freedom in 1994, Cuba and South Africa, under Castro and President Nelson Mandela respectively, formed a strong bond of solidarity and friendship.
Zuma has reiterated that the people of South Africa share the loss of the Cuban people and stand with them in this time of grief and mourning.
A significant number of South African individuals and organisations have over a number of years established strong political and cultural relations with Cuban partners and allies.
Zimbabwwean President Robert Mugabe is also among the African leaders attending the funeral