D.C. Set to Honor Late South African Leader Oliver Tambo

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There will be a ceremony to honor one of South Africa’s greatest leaders and a project that encompasses one of his passions on Oct. 31 in Washington D.C..

The late Oliver Tambo, who served as the president of the African National Congress (ANC) from 1967-1991, will be feted for his 100th birthday and there will be an introduction of the Science and Technology Train, which is a proposed scientific community on rails sponsored by a South African company.

Oliver Tambo led the ANC while Nelson Mandela was in prison. (AFRO File Photo)

“As we celebrate the life of Oliver Tambo, South Africans recall, first and foremost, his love for children and his unswerving dedication to their quality education,” June Costa, a representative for the Pangea Geophysics and Geodesy Working Group, based in Pretoria, South Africa, said in a statement. “One of his memorable quotes ‘a nation, a people, a country that doesn’t care for its children have no future and deserves none.’ Tambo played an integral role in the liberation of South Africa and dedicated his life to the pursuit of equality and justice for all South Africans and he was one of the founding fathers of the South African Constitutional Democracy.

The event will take place at the residence of South Africa’s ambassador to the United States, H.E. Mninwa J. Mahlangu and the programs will include a video presentation by the ambassador on the life and legacy of Tambo; an introduction of the train by Costa and music by South African cellist Jacques-Pierre Malan and pianist Sahun Hong.

Tambo lived during the pre-apartheid and some of apartheid South Africa. He was a close comrade to the late Nelson Mandela, who was a freedom fighter for the South African people during the apartheid period before he was imprisoned in 1963 for fighting against the racist government.

In 1958, Tambo became the deputy president of the ANC and in 1959, he was banned by the South African government for his political activities. As a banned person, he could not interact with people legally and was subject to constant government surveillance for five years.

In 1967, Tambo became the acting president of the ANC after the death of Nobel Peace Prize winner Chief Albert Lutuli and went abroad to live in London to continue his anti-apartheid activities. Tambo helped to mobilize world opinion against the racist government of South Africa.

In 1990, he returned to South Africa and was elected national chairperson of the ANC. He died at the age of 75 in 1993.

The airport in Johannesburg is named in his honor and there is a bust of him in the London neighborhood of Muswell Hill.

The train is the brainchild of South African Dr. Stoffel Fourie, who thought of the idea in 2003. Many rural residents of South Africa, the overwhelming majority being Black, don’t have sufficient educational resources.

The train will consists of about 15 cars with 50 to 70 science professionals, students, administrative and community workers. It will have living quarters and the latest scientific equipment and technological advances and will stay in rural towns for up to six months. The train will also have the capacity to address needs such as housing, food security, sanitation and electricity.

From the start-up to maintenance phase, which should take about five years, it is estimated that will cost 190 million rand or $13.88 million dollars. When the money is raised, the train will be built and begin operation.

Costa said that the train will travel particularly in the eastern provinces of the country where there are sparse educational resources in the rural areas. She noted that less than five percent of students who attend South Africa’s robust university and college system major in STEM areas and that’s what the train will try to change.