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Zimbabwe’s Mugabe and South Africa’s Zuma Head to Cuba to Bid Farewell to Longtime Supporter Fidel Castro


Two African leaders have confirmed their participation in the funeral of the late Cuban leader and nationalist Fidel Castro. Another leader has suspended his political campaign to mourn.

South African government officials confirmed that embattled President Jacob Zuma will be attending the event in the Cuban capital of Havana. Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe left Harare on Monday evening to fly to Cuba for the funeral.

Mugabe was seen off at Harare International Airport by the two vice presidents, Cde Emmerson Mnangagwa and Cde Phelekezela Mphoko, as well as several government ministers and service chiefs.

Zimbabwe-Cuba relations

Zimbabwe and Cuba share close ties that were born during Zimbabwe’s fight for freedom, when Castro’s Cuba provided moral, material and military support to the cadres waging the liberation struggle.

Afterward, Cuba continued to play an influential role in educating local science and math teachers for the massive new education system. The program runs to this day at present-day Bindura University of Science Education.

‘‘Zimbabwe at independence and up to date continues to benefit from the recruitment of Cuban medical doctors, some of whom are in specialized [areas] such as oncologists, anesthetists, gynecologists and others,” the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation said on its news portal.

South Africa-Cuba relations

The South African government has confirmed that President Jacob Zuma will be in Havana for the funeral of the late leader, who died aged 90. All South African flags are to fly at half-mast until Dec. 4.

‘‘President Zuma has ordered that the National Flag be flown at half-mast at all stations in South Africa tomorrow, Nov. 29, 2016, on the date of the funeral of former President Castro,” a government statement read. “The National Flag is flying at half-mast in the South African mission in Cuba until Dec. 4.

‘‘Condolence books have been placed at the Union Buildings in Pretoria, Tuynhuys in Cape Town and at the offices of the Premiers throughout the country.”

Zuma had expressed his condolences in an earlier statement, which came after the Mandela Foundation’s condolence message was issued on Saturday, hours after the death was reported.

After South Africa gained freedom in 1994, Cuba and South Africa, under Presidents Castro and Mandela, respectively, formed a strong bond of solidarity and friendship. Cuba was an open supporter of the anti-apartheid struggle.

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