Sat Oct 22 15:34:42 SAST 2016

OR is a name because he captained field of liberation

By unknown | Nov 09, 2006 | COMMENTS [ 0 ]

Did you know that in Mthatha there is a football club called OR Tambo Cosmos, which plays in the Mvela Golden League?

Did you know that in Mthatha there is a football club called OR Tambo Cosmos, which plays in the Mvela Golden League?

Well, the team is just one of the many institutions and landmarks named after the struggle hero.

Also, it is now a fact that Africa's largest airport, until recently known as Johannesburg International, and Jan Smuts Airport during apartheid, is now officially OR Tambo International.

So, today join me on a special sojourn with Oliver Reginald Tambo, known as OR to many.

To the less conversant, OR was ANC president who handed the baton to Nelson Mandela.

Say we start our three-hour trip from Rustenburg, North West, along Nelson Mandela Drive, then corner Thabo Mbeki Avenue in the town's centre. We go past Mogale City in western Gauteng, past Joburg through to Ekurhuleni where the great man lived in Wattville, Benoni.

There we visit an informal settlement known as Tamboville, where a huge memorial site is dedicated to OR at the cemetery in which he is buried; and pay our homages.

Wait. In Benoni there is Tom Jones Street. I've always wondered whether it was named after the famous balladeer. Colleague Sello Rabothata, who lives in Wattville, must clarify this one for me.

From Tamboville we visit a sick friend who has been admitted to the OR Tambo Memorial Hospital in Boksburg. The hospital is formerly known as BBH - for Benoni-Boksburg Hospital.

Then, finally, we drive to OR Tambo International. We take a flight to an Eastern Cape destination, where we are feted in Mthatha, which forms part of the OR Tambo district municipality.

A highlight of the excursion is the OR Tambo Cosmos match against another club whose name eludes me.

Great trip, I told you.

See, I did not return to the renaming debate.

But, a bird just whispered into my ear that PW Botha, the Groot Krokodil, could just not take it and decided to go to bed forever. This on hearing that OR Tambo has been honoured by renaming the airport after him.

Kudos to Ekurhuleni mayor Duma Nkosi, the mastermind behind the project who, albeit haltingly, eventually got his way.

Parrying off criticism, Nkosi had maintained that the airport was not in Johannesburg, but Kempton Park in Ekurhuleni . OR was the son of Ekurhuleni.

Little did he argue that OR International Airport was a fitting honour for an African legend and his legacy.

In fact, OR was a freedom fighter, an international campaigner. He transcended ideology, was respected by Africanists and Black Consciousness adherents alike; and by many who came to know him.

Nkosi took a chance and his idea worked. Even the PAC agrees. It was not an opportunistic gesture, I think, but one borne from the conviction of another former liberation movement.

It was thus with some pride that I saw Tambo's bronze bust being unveiled at the airport recently.

My heart could only swell and bubble.

As the gods would have it, in 1993 a second stroke stopped OR - barely a year before basking in the glory of the freedom he fought for.

He deserves the veneration.


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