Cuban Five’s triumphant tour of Robben Island

Jul 12, 2015 by

CAPE TIMES

Cuban Five’s triumphant tour of Robben Island

June 24 2015 at 06:43am
By nicolette.dirk

ct Cuban Five on Robben Island 5206 Courtney Africa COMMON STRUGGLE: Gerardo Hern�ndez, one of the Cuban Five who visited Robben Island yesterday, had a pensive moment in the cell of former president Nelson Mandela. Photo: Courtney Africa

Nicolette Dirk

“TODAY I experienced how the human spirit can overcome oppression and grow stronger,” René González, one of the Cuban Five, said yesterday.

González joined Gerardo Hernández, Antonio Guerrero, Ramón Labañino and Fernando González on a tour of Robben Island yesterday.

Struggle stalwart Ahmed Kathrada, who spent 15 years imprisoned on the island with former president Nelson Mandela, took them on a tour. Kathrada said it was a meeting of fellow prisoners. He reminded people that Cuba had been a strong ally during the Struggle.

They five men were arrested in the US in 1998 on charges of conspiracy to commit espionage. South Africa stood in solidarity with them, calling for their release.

They are here to thank South Africans for their support and to strengthen ties between Cuba and SA.

González, who spent 13 years in prison, said: “The lesson for me is meeting people who were in prison under the conditions on Robben Island and see how strong they still are. You realise that if you are part of the right cause, you can face anything.”

Fernando González said seeing the place where so many of South Africa’s political prisoners suffered was an overwhelming experience.

“To survive those kind of conditions shows the psychological strength of a human being when they believe in something,” he said.

Guerrero, who spent 16 years in prison, said: “Just over six months ago I was still in prison. I even drew a painting of Nelson Mandela while I was in my prison cell. Today I can see where he was with my own eyes. It is a feeling too great to express in words.

“Being in South Africa is like coming home because we are the same people.”

Kathrada said: “They were the ones who fought with our people in Angola and they lost many lives fighting our struggle… They were always our allies,” he said.

nicolette.dirk@inl.co.za

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