President Jacob Zuma has paid tribute to struggle hero Oliver Tambo by unveiling a statue constructed in his honour at OR Tambo International Airport in Ekurhuleni today.
“The installation of this statue at the international arrivals hall of this airport is especially fitting as it was to this airport that OR Tambo would return in 1990 after 30 years in exile – finally, to be greeted by his own people,” said President Zuma.
The 2.5 metre bronze statue is situated at the international arrivals section of the airport, so international visitors will be greeted by the longest serving ANC President upon arrival to South Africa.
Domestic travellers will also be able to see the statue as they navigate to the domestic terminals.
The statue was sculptured by Kgaogelo Mashilo, Paballo Majela and Zelda Stroud from Sculpture Casting Services. It depicts OR Tambo coming off an airplane with suitcases.
OR Tambo’s son, Dali Tambo, said the statue is symbolic of the many travels OR Tambo conducted in his fight for the liberation of South Africa. The statue also shows him coming down two steps which symbolise the steps he was taking not only into the country but into his last days as he was not well at the time.
“One of the greatest resources South Africa has is its heritage and this statue is a piece of that heritage,” said Dali.
Thanking officials, Dali said the statue was a great tribute to his father’s life and his contribution to the liberation struggle and South Africa.
Transport Minister Joe Maswanganyi said it is befitting that the statue be erected at one of the busiest airports in the country. The airport received 21 million visitors in 2016. The launch comes as South Africa marks October Transport Month.
In addition to the statue, a bust of the struggle icon was unveiled and the Air Traffic Navigation Services (ATNS) was renamed after OR Tambo.
President Zuma called on South Africans to participate in the aviation economy and its value chain.
“This includes participating in aviation-related careers such as pilots, aeronautical engineering, aircraft assemblers, airport planners, aviation safety specialists and meteorologist. We will then be paying a fitting tribute to OR Tambo who wanted to see progress and development for the people of our country,” said President Zuma.
OR Tambo centenary celebrations
The unveiling formed part of the centenary celebrations that are being held across the country under the theme: ‘Life and Legacy of OR Tambo’.
Last week, while on a State visit, President Zuma launched the OR Tambo Heritage Site House in Chelston in Lusaka, Zambia.
Earlier this month, the Reserve Bank and South African Mint launched a series of four new commemorative coins honouring the late struggle stalwart. Three of the coins are collectible coins. At the launch, Dali thanked the central bank and mint for the coins, as well as South Africans for the country’s liberation.