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Celebrating Tambos' legacy

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Their grave to become national heritage site

Nelson Mandela and Oliver Tambo with Winnie Madikizela-Mandela and Adelaide Tambo. (Gallo Images/Avusa)

Tomorrow, the final resting place of struggle stalwarts Oliver and Adelaide Tambo will be declared a national heritage site as part of the OR Tambo Month commemoration in the City of Ekurhuleni.

The two are buried side by side at the Tamboville Cemetery in Wattville, south of Benoni.

Mondli Gungubele, executive mayor of the municipality, speaking ahead of OR Tambo Month in the Germiston council chambers said: "Such was the stature of Tambo that his legacy led to the realisation of the principles of fighting for a democratic, nonracial and nonsexist South Africa.

"It is therefore fitting that the municipality resolved to confer the Freedom of the City of Ekurhuleni to Tambo and even went on to declare October, which is Tambo's birthday month, Oliver Tambo Month — a time in which we remind ourselves about the life and legacy of this revered elephant of the struggle for liberation."

Former president Nelson Mandela said at Tambo's funeral in 1993 that he was a giant, who strode the globe like a colossus.

Oliver Reginald Tambo was born on October 27 1917 in Kantolo in Mbizana in the Eastern Cape. He attended school in Johannesburg, and studied at Fort Hare University. In 1944, Tambo, Mandela, Walter Sisulu and others formed the ANC Youth League.

In 1954 he was elected acting secretary general of the ANC.

In 1955 he became secretary general of the ANC and was charged with high treason along with 155 others. The charges were dropped in 1957. He became ANC deputy president in 1958, holding the position until 1967 when he was elected ANC president.

Tambo went into exile in 1960 following the Sharpeville massacre.

In 1974 the ANC was recognised by the United Nations as a truly representative liberation movement.

Tambo was re-elected ANC president at the Kabwe conference in 1985 and in 1986 the United States Congress imposed official sanctions against South Africa. Tambo suffered a brain spasm in 1988.

In 1990, he returned from exile on December 13. He became chancellor of the Fort Hare University in 1991.

He passed away April 24 1993 after suffering a stroke and was buried in Wattville, Benoni.

Delivering the OR Tambo memorial lecture earlier this month, Dr Sydney Mufamadi reflected that Tambo had a unique ability to engage people.

"He would talk to King Sobhuza, engage with former Cuban president Fidel Castro, interact with the Pope and address angry cadres."

This community lecture was the first of a trilogy organised by the City of Ekurhuleni in celebration of OR Tambo Month.

The next lecture was in the Thokoza Auditorium, delivered by by the former deputy minister of economic development, Enock Godongwana. It coincided with a special lecture for pupils at Ekukhanyeni Primary School in Wattville.

OR Tambo Month started with the second annual Oliver and Adelaide Tambo Liberation Walk on October 6, organised by the municipality, the Oliver and Adelaide Tambo Foundation and the Airports Company South Africa (Acsa).

The commemorations will reach a climax on October 27 with a wreath-laying ceremony at Tamboville Cemetery where the declaration of the gravesite as a national heritage site is expected to be made. There will also be an art exhibition at the OR Tambo Cultural Precinct in Wattville.

The R140-million precinct stands in permanent commemoration of this great man and includes an environmental centre where environmental education will be conducted; the OR Tambo Narrative Centre, which will house the new Oliver Tambo exhibition; a space for multipurpose arts and crafts workshops for crafters to produce, exhibit and sell their goods; an outdoor amphitheatre for performing artists and a R8.4-million solar plant, launched on October 12.

The plant produces about 200kW of electricity through 860 photovoltaic solar panels on 2 500m2 of land. This energy is enough to power about 133 low-cost houses.

The precinct is also set to put Wattville on the map for the environmentally friendly technologies used in its construction, including specialised techniques such as rammed earth, straw-bale and cob wall construction, green roof technology and thermal-mass flooring.

The City of Ekurhuleni has entered into an agreement with the OR Tambo District Municipality in the Eastern Cape and the City of Lusaka in Zambia to ensure intergovernmental relationships as well as to foster the unique partnership brought together by the birth of OR Tambo in Kantolo, his work done while he was in Lusaka and his ultimate burial in Wattville.

Towards iconising OR Tambo

2004 The Ekurhuleni metropolitan municipality conferred the Freedom of the City to OR Tambo (posthumously), his wife Dr Adelaide Tambo (who later passed on) and the late SACP stalwart Chris Hani (posthumously).

These freedom fighters all lived in the Ekurhuleni region.

It was after this honour was bestowed to the trio that the city declared October OR Tambo Month.

2005 The planning phase of the OR Tambo Cultural Precinct started.

2006 October is declared the month during which the legacy of Tambo could be celebrated.

2007 Johannesburg Airport is renamed OR Tambo International Airport.

2008 A new gravestone design and construction are undertaken to include a second burial for Adelaide Tambo.

2009 A memorandum of agreement is signed between the Ekurhuleni metropolitan municipality, OR Tambo district municipality and the Lusaka city council.

2009 A monument is designed and constructed.

2010 The tender is awarded for the construction phase of the cultural precinct.

2011 Construction of the OR Tambo Narrative Centre is completed in October.

2012 Oliver and Adelaide Tambo's grave site is declared a national heritage site.

2012 The OR Tambo precinct becomes fully functional.

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