A tale from a time of war

Sowetan Reporter

Sowetan Reporter

Brothers in Arms is a tale of two countries - South Africa and Cuba - and of a family separated for 40 years.

To be screened on SABC1 tonight at 9.00pm, it tells the story of Ronald Herboldt, the only African who took part in the Cuban revolution, his love for his adopted country, his Cuban family and his determination to return home.

In December 1958 21-year-old Ronald from Salt River, Cape Town, was working on a cargo ship that had docked in Cuba to load sugar. The Cuban Revolution was reaching a climax. Ronald was instantly attracted to Fidel Castro's rebel army.

He fought with the guerrillas against the Batista dictatorship and, when Cuba was free, he was effectively in exile. In 1962 he married Martha Rangel Sandoval and had a family. But he yearned to return to South Africa.

In 1975 and again in 1987, Angola asked for Cuban help against South African actions. Ronald volunteered for duty. He served as a Cuban representative in an organisation that oversaw South Africa and Cuba's disengagement from southern Angola. He returned home in 1998.

Brothers in Arms follows his reunion with his family and captures his life in Cuba and Angola.

Now 70, he did not want to be dependent on his Cape Town family. Unable to get a pension, he returned to Cuba in 2002. From there, he applied for the special pension for struggle veterans. But does his service in Angola warrant the special pension?

Brothers In Arms is a story of a man whose sense of justice and decency led to him make a unique contribution to freedom.