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The handshake


“This has been an unknown continent to us because it was dominated by Europe. Now it’s opening up, and we want to be part of it. And our interest is wholly disinterested. We have no great commercial history. We have no record of exploitation. We have supported the United Nations effort in Africa. We want them to be independent.”

—President John F. Kennedy, 1962


Author note: President Kennedy’s speech was a direct outreach to all African countries: Algeria, Ghana, Guinea, Nigeria and others, however Nelson Mandela’s African National Congress (ANC) was not one of the entities on the list. However, that was okay. All of the countries included aided the ANC.

Former Mt. Zion Missionary Baptist Church missionary Ralph Franklin who worked in South Africa, Cuba, and Guinea believes he understood that magical moment that went viral Wednesday morning as “the handshake.” Franklin believes it’s impossible to get inside President Barack Obama’s head and determine why he shook hands with Cuban President Raul Castro Tuesday but his instincts tell him the gesture was a thank you.

Obama, Mandela Funeral (52836)

Mainstream media believe the handshake was a simple gesture that signaled possible thawing between two Cold War foes.

According to the Associated Press, Obama adviser Ben Rhodes said the handshakes with Castro and other world leaders weren’t planned in advance and didn’t involve any substantive discussion.

The handshake between President Obama and Cuban President Castro (Fidel Castro’s brother) Franklin is referring to took place during a ceremony that celebrated the former South African president’s legacy of reconciliation. During the ceremony President Obama was greeting a line of world leaders attending the memorial in Johannesburg before delivering his own eulogy.

“I believe the handshake was a gesture of thanks to the non-African countries like Cuba. During the Cold War, Cuba and the Soviet Union assisted the ANC in the struggle against apartheid. During the Cold War the ANC received arms and training from the Soviet Union, Cuba and the Irish Republican Army and other organizations that took a stand against South Africa.

Franklin continues, “The Black South Africans were just pawns, and the communist saw (opposing) apartheid as an opportunity to gain a foothold in Africa. However, when dealing with Nelson Mandela, you had to out think him.

“Mandela received the support of these countries and was able to have a democratic country. Just think about it, he got assistance from communist countries and still formed a democracy.”

Franklin is referring to Cuban and Soviet intervention in Rhodesia and South Africa. Rhodesia was named after Cecil John Rhodes (founder and benefactor of the Rhodes Scholarship) who colonized Mashonaland (Zimbabwe) in the late 1800s. The Rhodesian civil war created a domino effect that the United States had feared since the 1950s, and the last domino to fall was a country that became a democracy (South Africa).

The countries of Rhodesia and Angola became staging grounds for anti-apartheid attacks against South Africa.

Pan African Film Festival director Ayuko Babu witnessed firsthand the deployment of Cuban troops (Black and mulatto) to the Tanzania/Zimbabwe front while in Guinea and traveling to Angola with an entourage organized by his friend Stokely Carmichael. Their mission was to provide cameras and film to the anti-apartheid freedom fighters and instruct them on how to document proof that Rhodesia was being invaded by the South African military.

Ayuko remembers during that time Africans in Angola, Mozambique, Rhodesia, and South Africa were being slaughtered by the South African military. The South African government was receiving arms financed by the Saudis and funneled to South Africa’s government through a deal brokered by President Richard Nixon called the “Nixon Doctrine.”

Countries like South Africa were included in the Nixon Doctrine according to Global Research, and the Saudis acted as their conduit.

The documentation gathered by the anti-apartheid forces was to be presented to the United Nations.

They were eventually able to present their evidence to the UN, Ayuko noted.

Ayuko believes Cuba’s military involvement in overthrowing apartheid was significant, however the true primary sponsor of the anti-apartheid war was Nigeria. The country of Nigeria played a major role in training anti-apartheid freedom fighters. Substantial support also came from Libya, Zimbabwe, Ghana, Tanzania, Guinea, Ethiopia and China.

When Ayuko and the rest of the volunteers landed in Guinea in 1973, they were overwhelmed by the large number of Soviet military transports that came in from Cuba, refueled and took off again heading south, presumably to Angola. They were informed by Guinea locals that the Soviet transports contained Cubans soldiers going south to help end apartheid and imperialism.

Ayuko made it a point to mention that while watching Mandela’s memorial, he noted that Castro was introduced as this brother from a small island who defeated the South African army. Castro was the last dignitary to eulogize Mandela, and Ayuko called that fact “significant.”

Castro’s attendance at Mandela’s memorial service was no fluke. America was well aware of the connection between the anti-apartheid fighters and the communist island nation.

On April 1, 2002, the National Security Archive made public a selection of secret Cuban government documents which detailed Cuba’s policies and involvement in Africa in the 1960s and 1970s. According to the documents, then Cuban President Fidel Castro made a decision to send troops to Rhodesia without informing the Soviet Union, and consequently in essence, Cuba became the first country to directly attack apartheid. This is contrary to what has been widely alleged by media over the years. (The Pan African Film Festival will show the film “Cuba and the African Odyssey” during it’s 2014 screenings.)

The media has said that the conflicts in Rhodesia and Angola were individual wars. However, according to Ayuko, who was in constant communication with individuals involved in the struggle, the battles were actually one huge, coordinated war fighting the imperialist and colonial regimes in Africa. The war did not end until South Africa gave in and Mandela was freed.

But even as the majority of the American people came to oppose South Africa’s apartheid regime, President Ronald Reagan stood by the country.

African American leaders and organizations pressured Congress to take action and ultimately it passed sanctions against South Africa. True to form, Reagan vetoed the bill. But to Reagan’s shame, Congress overrode the veto. In 1981, President Reagan tried to convince the world how a apartheid South Africa preserved U.S. welfare in that part of the world.

President Reagan explained to CBS that he was loyal to the South African regime because it was “a country that has stood by us in every war we’ve ever fought, a country that strategically, is essential to the free world in its production of minerals and it’s location in the world. It would be a country we would need should our sea lanes ever become a target of the Soviets.”

Brian Brecker of Global Research remembers a unknown reporter who angered former Reagan press secretary Marlin Fitzwater, who at the time was serving under President George H.W. Bush, by asking days before the arrival of Nelson Mandela in the United States on June 25, 1990, whether President Bush would apologize to Mandela for the U.S.’s role in his arrest.

According to retired South African intelligence official Gerald Ludi, the CIA provided logistics to the South African government on how and where to arrest Mandela obtained from an undercover agent inserted into the ANC.


Fitzwater was angry and caught off guard. He said, “I just don’t like it when people question our motives on Blacks or on Mandela because of an incident that happened 20 years ago in another administration.”

Bush was director of the Central Intelligence Agency from 1976-1977, when the CIA was directly involved in attempting to prolong apartheid according to Brecker.

According to J.E. Spence, author of “South Africa in the Cold War” Reagan sought to keep the South African government and by extension apartheid in tact, because the nation could be used as a strategic resource to keep track of Soviet attack submarines along with other nuclear warhead packing subs that constantly trawled the waters of the Cape of Good Hope, a South African peninsula.

South Africa was seen as a front-line state in the Cold War, hosting a major CIA listening station, and existing as a location that possessed a vital geostrategic position.

The Cape of Good Hope was a point of passage for most Soviet subs leaving and returning to the Soviet Union. Additionally, a good percentage of the world’s oil and manufactured goods have always had to sail around the Cape of Good Hope which made it a key Western potential strategic choke point that needed protecting.

This allowed the Reagan Administration to place a strategic value on South Africa as a possible naval base for United States ships and aircraft. The Antarctic Treaty reinforced Reagan’s reasoning because it prohibited any military activity in Antarctica, including the establishment of military bases and fortifications, military maneuvers, and weapons testing. Military personnel or equipment are permitted only for scientific research or other peaceful purposes.

So, during the Cold War this all made South Africa a strategic jewel and a reason to throw away restraints when dealing with Mandela and also defeating the ANC.

However Congress disagreed, and produced the two-thirds majority needed to override Reagan’s veto of a set of tough new measures against South Africa’s apartheid government. Called the Comprehensive Anti-Apartheid Act of 1986, the tenets included a ban on bank loans and new investments in South Africa, a sharp reduction of imports, and preventing most South African officials from traveling to the United States. The legislation also called for the repeal of apartheid laws and the release of political prisoners like African National Congress (ANC) leader Nelson Mandela, who had by that time spent 23 years in prison.

Yet despite this major action, Mandela was only removed from the U.S. “terrorist” list in 2008.

“I believe Nelson Mandela would have approved of the handshake, but now it’s time for Madiba to sleep, as all his adversaries practice selective amnesia.”

—Ralph Franklin, Missionary to Africa 1976-1986