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OCTOBER 24 will forever be etched in the memory of Gertrude Tambo as the day on which her dream to visit the country where her brother spent many years of exile was fulfilled.
"I have longed to come here for many years," she said. "I am happy to have finally made it. I was anxious to see where my brother spent so many years of his life."
Makhulu Gertrude, 77, is the only surviving sister of late struggle veteran and former ANC president Oliver Reginald Tambo.
Tambo was granted Zambia's highest honour by President Rupiah Banda on the 45th anniversary of the country's independence on Saturday.
Previous recipients of the Order of the Eagle of Zambia include former Cuban president Fidel Castro.
Tambo died in 1993 after spending more than 30 years in exile in a number of countries, including Zambia. His children received the award on his behalf.
Tambo said she was proud to have witnessed the recognition of her brother's achievements in the struggle against apartheid.
"He would have been so happy if he were alive," she said.
"I didn't know much about his political activities. I knew only of the things that I read about him in newspapers. He didn't want us to know what was going on.
"I was saddened by the hardships he endured and prayed that God would keep him alive until he came back."
Tambo said she also missed her older brother's guidance.
"He was very strict. I knew that if I had done something wrong I would have to tell him and not beat about the bush. We grew up to be a better family because of his influence."
Oliver Tambo's youngest daughter, Tselane, said the honour bestowed on her father demonstrated Zambia's appreciation of him.
"Daddy lived here for so many years. Zambia and Uncle KK (then president Kenneth Kaunda) looked after him so well. It was his home for many years and that Zambia would honour him as a son is a great honour. I wouldn't have missed it for the world," she said.
The honouring of Oliver Tambo coincided with the country's celebration of 45 years of independence, which was marked by a wreath laying ceremony at Lusaka's Freedom Square.
Banda and other government officials laid garlands of flowers at the foot of the Freedom statue, which depicts the breaking the chains of colonialism.
The day also marked the signing of a twinning agreement between the City of Lusaka and South Africa's Ekurhuleni Metropolitan Municipality in Gauteng and the OR Tambo District Municipality in the Eastern Cape.
Oliver Tambo was born in Nkantolo village which falls under the OR Tambo District and is buried in Wattville, Ekurhuleni, where he lived on his return from exile.
The celebrations also coincided with Tambo Month, which is commemorated by the local municipalities to mark his birthday.
Bound by the municipalities' association with Tambo, the twinning agreement aims to establish a joint working group to share expertise and ideas on development, poverty eradication, the empowerment of women and children, service delivery, sound financial management and human development.
l Namhla Tshisela was in Lusaka, Zambia, as a guest of the Ekurhuleni municipality