Only African to fight for Cuba


Brothers in Arms tells the story of the only African to participate in the Cuban revolution, Ronald Herboldt, and his love of his adopted country, his Cuban family and his determination to come home. The film is directed by Jack Lewis and produced by Lucilla Blankenberg and Idol Pictures. The film which is scheduled to screen at the beginning of June, is produced with the support of

National Film & Video Foundation, Department of Arts & Culture and the SABC.

In December 1958 Ronald, then a 21 year old from Salt River, Cape Town was working on the cargo ship Constantia which docked in Cuba to load sugar, just as the Cuban Revolution was reaching its climactic moment. Fraternising with members of Fidel Castro’s Rebel Army, Ronald was instantly attracted.

He left the Constantia and participated in the liberation of Cuba from the Batista dictatorship. After the events of the Bay of Pigs and the missile crisis, Ronald was effectively in exile. In 1962 he married Martha Rangel Sandoval and raised a family in Cuba. Throughout his long exile Ronald never lost his love for Cape Town and his South African family or his desire to return home to a liberated South Africa.

In 1975 and again in 1987 Angola asked for Cuban help to repulse South African invasion. Ronald was amongst the first to volunteer for duty in Angola. His knowledge of Afrikaans provided invaluable assistance to Cuban military intelligence.

Brothers in Arms follows Ronald’s reunion with his family and tells the story of his life in Cuba, service in Angola and the meaning of these events. Now a proud and independent man of 70, who has accumulated nothing from his life of service, Ronald felt it wrong to be dependent on his Cape Town family.

Unable to obtain a pension, he returned to Cuba in 2002. From there, he applied for the special pension which the South African government provides to struggle veterans who sacrificed normal life and career in service to the liberation of South Africa.

His wish was to complete his homecoming by bringing his Cuban family to South Africa and to be able to support them here. The special pension is only available to people who were part of the recognised liberation movements, MK and FAPLA. The special pensions board is faced with a difficult decision – is Ronald’s service in the Cuban army in Angola equivalent to service in a liberation movement?

Brothers in Arms takes us on a journey with Ronald to Angola to establish what took place there which contributed vitally to a free and democratic South Africa.

According to producer Blankenberg, Brothers in Arms is a story of an ordinary man whose sense of justice and decency led to his making his own unique contribution to the liberation of South Africa.


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