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Tomorrow night South Africa and Argentina meet in the semi-final of the Rugby World Cup.
Argentinean captain Augustin Pichot has described revolutionary and freedom fighter Che Guevara as his country’s emblematic figure.
This week represents the 40th anniversary of Guevara’s death in the Bolivian jungle, but his fight and his rugby roots live on among Pichot and his teammates.
Pichot, in an interview with renowned French writer and Geuvera biographer Jean Comier, said: “I am proud to be his compatriot. I also know that during his guerrilla campaigns, Che used tactics that he learnt from our sport.”
The story of Argentina, South Africa and Che is an interesting one.
Che of course left Argentina and adopted Cuba, the revolutionary island as his home. Much like South Africa in Africa, Argentina was seen as too European in the South American sub-continent.
Cuba attracted Che because it was a willing fighter of colonialism. And this is where it gets interesting and ironic. Che's anti-colonial campaigns took him to the Congo where he was almost trapped and killed by South African mercenaries. Later South Africa and Cuba would do battle in Angola.
Che was a war monger, that is true. But he saw war as essential to achieve social justice.
All the while the Argentinians supported the white government in Pretoria. We and they send rugby teams to play with each other, while our and Cuba's young men fought each other all over the African continent.
The irony is this. Cuba had fought one of the first anto-colonial wars in 1896 against the Spanish. In order to bring the islands inhabitants to submission the Spanish built the worlds first concentration camps. Thousands of Cubans died.
The next big anti-colonial war was just about to kick-off and when the British best made plans went awry they turned to the Spanish example in Cuba: Concentration camps. Camps were set up all over South Africa during the Anglo-Boer War. 10% of the Afrikaner population died.
It is perhaps here that one could say that our General De la Rey and Che would have been keen friends. Both were anti-colonial freedom fighters. The difference was perhaps that De la Rey was a campaigner for peace and arguably a better guerilla soldier. Both believed in social justice.
How strange and sad then that Cuban and South African forces ended up battling each other in Angola.
But we were the ones that went astray, not the Cubans.
After more than a century of being told by the British that we and our language were no better than that of the Africans, we started to pretend we are European. And we would use Apartheid to try and keep us that way.
But we have mended our ways. The bottom line is this.
If Che was alive he would support South Africa and not Argentina.
Saturday, October 13, 2007
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