Namibia has become a beacon of peace and harmony that has illuminated the region and the world since gaining independence in 1990, Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canel has said.
He paid tribute to the courageous heroes of Namibia’s liberation struggle as the guest of honour during the commemoration of the 33rd Heroes’ Day at Independence Stadium on Saturday.
Heroes’ Day aims at honouring and celebrating the heroes and heroines who played pivotal roles in Namibia’s liberation struggle.
The Cuban leader said it is an emotional and well-deserved day as Namibians have sacrificed their lives, and paved the way for the definitive independence of their homeland.
Diaz-Canel's words were reverencing Namibia’s struggle for liberation from the then-apartheid South African occupiers.
He extended a special tribute to Namibia’s founding father, Sam Nujoma, saying “You fought against injustice on the battlefield and at the negotiating table, and Cuba is honoured to have supported you”.
Drawing from the historical timeline, Diaz-Canel marked 21 March 1990 as the transformative day when Namibia emerged as a potent symbol of resistance in former South West Africa.
“This victory definitively shattered the chains of the oppressive apartheid regime,” he said.
The Cuban leader then moved the audience with a poignant account of young survivors from the Cassinga massacre.
“The haunting echoes of incidents like the Cassinga massacre were brought to the forefront of the collective memory,” he noted.
He recounted how these survivors found refuge and healing in the arms of Cuban internationalist fighters, describing their journey from trauma to finding a new sense of home and purpose in Cuba.
“To the memory of their fallen relatives and to the dignified resistance that allowed them to survive the horror, we pay a heartfelt tribute,” Diaz-Canel emphasised, his voice carrying the weight of respect and honour.
Touching on the present, he pointed out the united strides both nations were taking on the arduous journey of development.
He acknowledged the substantial presence of Cuban compatriots working in Namibia across crucial sectors such as health, education, fishing, transportation and construction.
Amid his reflections, Diaz-Canel highlighted Cuba’s ongoing struggle against a difficult socio-economic situation. He attributed this challenge to the persistent economic, commercial and financial blockade imposed by the United States over many decades.
“Cuba is grateful to the government of Namibia for promoting resolutions against the blockade in the African Union, and for consistent support in the UN General Assembly,” he expressed, acknowledging Namibia’s steadfast solidarity.
On his part, Namibian President Hage Geingob conveyed profound gratitude to the Cuban people and their historic leader, Fidel Castro.
He applauded the resolute support which Cuba had extended to Namibia in its fight for liberation.
“The gallant fighters of Cuba sought no reward through their heroic actions,” he affirmed, adding that their sacrifices alongside the sons and daughters of Namibia had catalysed a turning point in the armed struggle.
Speaking of the choice between submission to colonial tyranny and fighting for freedom, Geingob quoted Namibian comrade Eneas Peter Nanyemba’s powerful words, “We will cross many rivers of blood before we can achieve our freedom”.
Geingob then hailed the alliance between Namibia and the brave Cuban internationalist fighters, declaring the decisive defeat of the apartheid scourge in southern Africa.
The event was poorly-attended, but those members of the public who turned up were greeted with breakfast packs, snacks, water and soft drinks, and bid farewell with double packs of meals comprising potato and butternut salads, carrots and a large piece of meat.
They consisted mostly of youth and children, apart from the dignitaries and invited guests.
Those in charge of catering said they blessed the attendees with double packs of food each to avoid wastage.
“We are happy that we are receiving two packs each. I will eat one, and take another one home to my family,” said Rebecca Goagoses, a 79-year-old woman who came all the way from Katutura to witness the event.
Another resident, who refused to be named nor pictured because she was carrying food, said “I think they gave us double because people are not many”, while walking towards one of the many buses which brought them to the stadium.
As the programme was slated for the afternoon, the public started moving out of the stadium shortly after the event officially commenced as it was getting cold.
However, the police and security outsmarted them by locking all the exit gates.
Asked why the gates were locked, a police officer told New Era: “I am working on orders. People will not leave before they get food. We are arranging for the distribution of food,” she claimed while telling people to be patient.
Painted with Cuban and Namibian flags which were distributed to every person who entered the stadium, the event also included entertainment by different local artists such as Kalux, TopCheri, Sally Boss Madam, Big Ben and the Ndilimani Cultural Troupe.
A group of Namibians and Cubans who benefitted directly from the bilateral cooperation were seen wearing white, green and red T-shirts.
The armed forces, Namibian Police and Namibian Correctional Service officers' parade likewise brought excitement to the attendees, in addition to the display of some military vehicles and equipment which the Namibian government had procured since independence.
Some Swapo members proudly donned their party colours. One of them, Wilka Sheehama, said “ I am here to pay tribute to our brothers and sisters who sacrificed their lives for our freedom. I am delighted to be here to honour them”.
Audrin Mathe, the executive director of the information ministry, recently revealed that the Namibian government had allocated a budget of N$550 000 for Heroes’ Day commemorations.
Originally scheduled to take place in Omuthiya in the Oshikoto region, the event was shifted to Windhoek due to the State visit by the Cuban president, who was invited by Geingob.