Your Excellency, President Edgar Lungu,
Your Excellencies, Ambassadors and High Commissioners,
Today the 13th October 2017 marks fourteen days before the Centenary Birthday Celebrations of the longest serving African National Congress (ANC) President Comrade Oliver Reginald Tambo, affectionately referred to as OR.
To honour his memory and principled leadership in the thirty three years he led the anti-apartheid struggle in exile, the South African Government has declared his centenary birthday year, ‘the YEAR OF OR TAMBO’.
Chosen by fate and history, OR left South Africa in 1960 on the singular mission to ensure the survival of the ANC through the establishment of the External Mission at a time when almost all the ANC leaders had been rounded up and put on the treason trial.
It was the determination to ensure the continuity of the liberation struggle against apartheid that kept OR strong for all those years despite all the hardships that the cold war and the lack of resources as well as separation from family imposed.
There is no doubt that his faith was a pillar of strength and a compass he used to navigate the complex environments he later found himself in. OR began his mission in the United Kingdom and later proceeded to establish Umkhonto we Sizwe camps in Tanzania in 1961 before finally moving the headquarters of the ANC from Morogoro to Lusaka in 1971.
According to our knowledge and indeed as documented by one of his body guards, who later became South Africa’s Ambassador to Kenya, Ambassador Tony Msimang, the 1980s in Lusaka became very dangerous for the ANC because of the apartheid assassination agents that moved in and out of Lusaka rather frequently.
Comrade OR, like all other ANC members, had to move from house to house in order to escape kidnapping, arrest or assassination by the apartheid regime’s agents.
This house here in Chelston, became one of the many houses where OR spent his time particularly, in the garden where he found the vegetation as soothing companionship allowing him time to both think and pray as OR was indeed a devout Christian and a teetotaller.
The house was among the many safe houses OR lived in, and was OR’s favourite.
This house demonstrates the strong bond between the Zambian people and the South African people.
We have had a long history of association, and it is such a pleasure that finally there is physical evidence of that long historical association marked by the OR Heritage Site here in Chelston. We thank you Mr President for declaring this house as a heritage site.
From this house, which will be developed into an Interpretative Centre, our mutual bonds of friendship, intermarriage, history, culture migrations and heritage will be revisited and researched.
South African children born at the University Teaching Hospital, their parents and grand-parents who studied at the University of Zambia and at Evelyn Hone College to name but a few institutions, will have the opportunity to learn about the South African liberation struggle and Zambia’s role in it.
Indeed Zambia’s history of housing the liberation movements of Southern Africa is a rich heritage that should not be left to die.
It should be researched and celebrated as we do today in jointly recognising the significance of the OR Tambo Heritage Site and jointly launch it for the benefit of the young Zambians and young South Africans.
The youth has an opportunity in this OR Tambo Heritage Site to learn about Pan Africanism through the history of those who lived and promoted it.
We are indeed very pleased that the house of Zambia’s first Republican president Dr KK Kaunda and that of Comrade OR Tambo are now respectively heritage sites in Lusaka.
This provides a great opportunity for research and the writing of our own stories.
Let me thank you Mr President for this wonderful opportunity to jointly launch the OR Tambo Heritage Site with you today.
It is a powerful symbol of the bonds between our two countries and peoples.
I thank you.
Distributed by African Media Agency (AMA) on behalf of Republic of South Africa: The Presidency.