Two days after Zimbabwe’s declaration of independence, on April 20 1980, Cuba and Zimbabwe formally established their diplomatic relations. However, the relationship between the two countries went way back to the ’70s, during the liberation struggle for Zimbabwe. Despite the geographical distance between the two countries, Cuba and Zimbabwe have many things in common, among them, the hospitality and solidarity of its people, and the strong desire for freedom. Both countries have paid a high price to keep their independence. As part of Cuba’s policy towards Africa, former president Fidel Castro offered a solidarity hand to the newly minted country of Zimbabwe. Through the bilateral economic commission, collaborative programmes, mainly in health and education, ensued. Zimbabwe needed a professional labour force to achieve the socio-economic and political development for the post-independence period. Therefore, the first group of young Zimbabweans left for Havana in November 1980 to study towards attainment of science degrees. The journey was not without challenges. All studies were in Spanish and they had to adapt to the Cuban culture and food. They joined the educational training programme, based on the ideas of Commander-in-Chief Fidel Castro.
The programme capacitated educational skills to thousands of young people from Africa, Asia and Latin America. More than 1 000 Zimbabweans have been trained in diverse areas throughout Cuban universities. The University of Bindura in Mashonaland Central is as a result of the bilateral cooperation between Cuba and Zimbabwe. It was the brainchild of former presidents, Robert Gabriel Mugabe and Fidel Castro of Zimbabwe and Cuba respectively. This was to enhance human capital development in Zimbabwe by bringing the science teacher education programme back from Cuba. In the health sector, backdated to 1987, Cuba has consistently deployed a medical brigade that has provided medical services in both urban and rural settings.
The assigned medical teams have selflessly reached out to the remote and difficult to access areas, bringing the service to areas lacking in primary medical care. Hundreds of Cuban medical doctors, nurses and technicians have had the privilege of serving in Zimbabwe. They have also faced the challenges of communicating with patients in English and local languages, more-so to adapt to a new cultural environment. Despite all these challenges, they have not been deterred, they have worked hard to improve the local health indicators, training human resources and improving the quality of processes in the Zimbabwean national health system. Without doubt, the Cuban medical brigade has been an example of self-sacrifice, good ethics and humanitarianism. The Zimbabwean Government has demonstrated true friendship to Cuba, in bad and good times. Together we have worked in different international scenarios. In spite of the economic and political pressures imposed on Cuba by hostile countries, Zimbabwe stood resolute in support of Cuba. To date Zimbabwe supports the Cuban fight against sanctions imposed by the United States of America.
The new generation of Cuban leaders, born and raised during the revolution, is committed to the principles and ideas of patriotism and internationalism inspired by Commander-in-Chief Fidel Castro. Cuban President Miguel Diaz Canel has reiterated his commitment to these ideals, saying: “Cuba will not renounce a single of its principles, nor make concessions inherent to its sovereignty and independence. Cuba will remain firm in defending its revolutionary and anti-imperialist ideals and in supporting the self-determination of the peoples.” During these 40 years of friendship, Cuba and Zimbabwe have developed an exemplary relationship based on respect and mutual support. Both countries are in a position to continue strengthening the bilateral bonds and even open new avenues to consolidate cooperation. Unity and solidarity in defence of common objectives and interests are the only alternatives to the enormous dangers and challenges facing the international community.