JOHANNESBURG, September 21 – South African freedom fighter, and anti-apartheid icon Oliver Reginald Tambo (OR) was lauded by President Jacob Zuma during a reception at the 72nd Session of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) in New York on Wednesday.
“It is my honour to welcome you to this event today, as we commemorate the centenary anniversary of an illustrious son of South Africa and icon of our country’s liberation, Oliver Reginald Tambo,” said Zuma.
“In honour of Tambo who was born one hundred years ago, South Africa declared 2017, ‘the Year of O.R. Tambo’. This is in honour of a man who dedicated his life to the liberation, freedom and equal opportunity of all South Africans,” he said.
The South African Head of State added that it was appropriate that the celebration was taking place at the Headquarters of the United Nations because Tambo was instrumental in transforming South Africa into a free democratic, non-racial, free country through his mobilisation of international solidarity against apartheid.
Tambo served as president of the African National Congress (ANC) from 1967 to 1991.
Following the Sharpeville Massacre, on March 21, 1960, the liberation leader embarked on a “Mission in Exile” in order to gain international support for the South African liberation movement.
He mobilised international solidarity against apartheid and contributed to shaping the vision of a post-apartheid democratic South Africa.
“Over and above his responsibilities as head of the ANC’s diplomatic mission, he had to lead and manage the military aspects of our struggle, fundraising, the setting up of ANC offices around the world and the overall welfare of ANC cadres in exile”, Zuma explained.
However, in addition to his courage and military expertise, Tambo was also a master of diplomacy and a believer in the power of consensus and democracy.
“In 1963 and 1964, Tambo made a number of high profile speeches to present the ANC to the world, the most prominent being one made to the United Nations in October 1963, where he made a passionate plea for the release of political prisoners,” Zuma explained.
This speech inspired the United Nations Resolution 18 of 11 October, 1963 calling on the South African government to release all political prisoners.
Again on June 11, 1981, Tambo stood before the General Assembly and delivered a key message at the meeting of the United Nations Committee against apartheid where he urged, and called upon member states, to act with urgency against the unjust realities faced by the black people of South Africa under the apartheid regime.
“He also acknowledged the significant role of the United Nations and its Special Committee against Apartheid in support of the struggle for liberation,” stated Zuma.
“As the great father of our nation, President Nelson Mandela, said at the funeral of Tambo: ‘Oliver lived because he had surrendered his very being to the people. He lived because his very being embodied love, an idea, a hope, an aspiration, a vision. While he lived, our minds would never quite formulate the thought that this man is other than what the naked eye could see’.”
South African President Jacob Zuma, in his address to the 72nd Session of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA), in New York, focused on human rights, peace and security, and socio-economic development.
And the South African head of State didn’t shy away from addressing controversial issues, including the occupation of Palestine and the Western Sahara.
After congratulating Miroslav Lajcak, the President of the 72nd (UNGA) session, and expressing South Africa’s support for the international organisation, Zuma underlined the importance of the theme of the UNGA debate: Focusing on People: Striving for Peace and a Decent Life for All On a Sustainable Planet.
Referring to the adoption of the Sustainable Development Goals two years ago, Zuma pointed out that there was still unfinished business in committing to addressing the challenges of poverty, under-development and inequality.
“While a few enjoy the benefits of globalisation, the majority of the peoples of the world still live in abject poverty and hunger, with no hope of ever improving their living conditions,” said Zuma.
The president pointed out that the developed countries continue to fuel their development from the resources of the African continent, while a significant chunk of Africa’s resources are drained through illicit financial outflows, depriving the continent of billions of dollars which could be used for development.
Turning to global peace and security, Zuma said Africans were endeavouring to reach the goal of silencing the guns by 2020, as contained in the African Union’s (AU) Agenda 2063.
The president also addressed the political crisis in Libya which he said exacerbated destabilisation in the Sahel region, and the flow of refugees from Africa to Europe.
On the issue of North Korea, Zuma called for calm and explained that South Africa believed that Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMDs) were never in safe hands, stating that it was illogical that some countries still had them.
“We are making a clarion call to all Member States of the UN to sign and ratify the Ban Treaty in order to rid the World and humanity of these lethal Weapons of Mass Destruction,” said Zuma.
The South African leader also underlined the importance of the Paris Agreement on Climate Change after expressing sympathy for the victims of the recent hurricanes, monsoons, floods and drought due to climate change.
Turning to the liberation struggle in South Africa, Zuma explained that the UNGA meeting coincided with the centenary anniversary of the birth of Oliver Reginald Tambo, who led South Africa’s liberation movement for three decades in the struggle against apartheid and racism in South Africa.
“If OR Tambo were still alive today, he would have pleaded with this august organisation to do all it can to support the struggle of the Palestinian People from occupation, and also to support the struggle of the people of Western Sahara,” said Zuma.
The president said that despite the world preaching a two-state solution in Palestine the expansion of illegal Israeli settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territory continue unabated.
“We also wish to remind the General Assembly that the right of the people of Western Sahara to self-determination continues to be undermined, challenged and denied.”
Finally, Zuma registered South Africa’s disappointment at the June 2017 decision of the US administration to reverse the progress that was registered in the past two years towards ending the Cuban blockade.
– African News Agency (ANA)