President Jacob Zuma has described former ANC president Oliver Reginald Tambo as a selfless and highly principled leader.
Speaking at the unveiling of a life-size statue to commemorate the late struggle stalwart at OR Tambo International Airport, Zuma said that Tambo was a leader who had the calling to serve the people of South Africa.
“He knew that the people of South Africa owed him nothing. He led the ANC during its most difficult time.”
Zuma added that Tambo was widely viewed as a revered international statesman and commander of a liberation army.
“When he returned in 1990 from 30 years in exile, he landed here and was greeted by his own people. He landed at the airport as a hero, a martyr and a man who fought to defeat the apartheid regime,” Zuma said.
Honouring this memory of Tambo, the 2.5-metre bronze statue depicts him descending the steps of an aircraft and greeting the supporters who’d arrived to welcome him home.
“The statue depicts Tambo taking his final two steps off a 1960s plane. Those two steps also symbolise his arrival in heaven. They have tremendous meaning ... it’s a beautiful beautiful sculpture,” Tambo’s son, Dali Tambo, said in his brief address.
“It’s one of the greatest compliments that could be paid to OR. People can take selfies with the statue, hug him and remember him 50 years from now,” Tambo said.
The government declared the year 2017 the Year of Oliver Reginald Tambo and the ceremony formed part of the OR Tambo centenary celebrations that are being held across the country under the theme “life and legacy of OR Tambo”.
Zuma added that the airport had been renamed twice since it was founded in 1952 as Jan Smuts Airport. It was renamed to Johannesburg International Airport in 1994.
Meanwhile, Nigeria honoured Zuma with a massive statue in Imo State this past Sunday and named a street after him, leading to protests in the west African country.
Nigerian trade union United Labour Congress criticised the governor of the Imo State, Owelle Okorocha, for erecting the giant statue and naming a street after him.
The union said although it had no problem honouring “great” men and women who had contributed positively to the development of the state, it felt there was no reason for Zuma to be honoured.