Between the Chains: Forgetting Tambo (Financial Mail)



Oliver Tambo memorial. Picture: Sikonathi Mantshantsha

  • Oliver Tambo memorial. Picture: Sikonathi Mantshantsha

  • Oliver Tambo memorial. Picture: Sikonathi Mantshatsha

    FM Edition:June 30 – 2016The wreckage of the OR Tambo Garden of Remembrance is a direct reflection of the state of affairs in SA today — the country is on fire while the elite is busy enriching itself. Built in the same yard that gave us Oliver Tambo, and overlooking the majestic Engele mountains on the Wild Coast, the memorial lies in complete ruins, having fallen victim to the ANC’s greed-fuelled internal battles for power and money.

True to the statesman’s character, the heritage site and memorial was already a humble one from the beginning: two thatched rondavels and a four metre stone plaque paying tribute to the man who, as its president between 1967 and 1991, arguably did more than anybody to keep the ANC intact during the difficult years of exile.

But the rondavels were burnt down in 2013 by some of the neighbours who were complaining that the local municipality had built free houses for some people and left them out.

In the yard lie the graves of Tambo’s parents and some of his siblings.

A drive through the historic Nkantolo village shows that despite the joblessness that has long been part of life here, life has improved for many. Part of Tambo’s struggle was to bring dignity to his people, and a lot of that has been achieved.

Though the roads are still untarred, the thatched mud huts of Tambo’s youth have made way for formal cement structures covered by tin roofs and tiles. Many of the neighbouring villages have electricity and running water.

But not all the development and justice that Tambo would have liked has been delivered to his countryside people.

The women and children of Nkantolo village can still be seen carrying buckets on their heads to fetch water from the same streams that Tambo used to drink from.

A few of the most indigent of residents have houses built and donated by the local municipality, something Tambo would have been proud of.

But it is also a fight over these resources that resulted in the worst form of disrespect and insult to the memory of the late statesman.

In what mirrored the chaotic scenes of criminality witnessed in Pretoria last week, where municipal and state property was destroyed in a crazed fight for the control of tenders, some arsonists burnt down Tambo’s two rondavels because the municipality wouldn’t build them houses for free.

Thus they assaulted the very man who had fought with everything at his disposal for every right they now enjoy. Tambo succumbed to a stroke in 1993, after having spent years flying around the world to mobilise support for his beloved ANC and the people of SA.

Today, 23 years later, perhaps the worst insult to the great memory of Oliver Tambo is the unrestrained rush for enrichment by his former comrades.

That Tambo’s memorial is still in ruins three years after an unjustified assault on his memory is the greatest indicator of how far his party has veered off coLying and rusting in the Tambo yard are thousands of building reinforcement steel rods that were abandoned there by some tenderpreneur. Trenches have been dug and left.While Tambo and his comrades paid with their lives and chosen careers for joining the ANC, their descendants are paying themselves untold billions at the expense of the people they vowed to serve.

No fewer than 70 bags of cement have turned solid due to exposure to the elements. Nobody knows what was to be built, and why the project was abandoned. No-one seems to even care.

Yet instead of doing their jobs, local politicians go about campaigning for votes — even at funerals — so they can continue plundering.


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