Bloemfontein: In an historic moment, the Free State Provincial Government led the unveiling of the statues of two of the world’s outstanding revolutionary heroes: the late President Oliver Reginald Tambo (1917 – 1993) of South Africa and the late President Fidel Alejandro Castro Ruz (1926 – 2016) of Cuba.
The O.R. Tambo statue was unveiled at the O.R. Tambo House, situated in the City of Mangaung, Bloemfontein. The building, which houses the Office of the Premier, amongst other provincial government departments, was formerly renamed Lebohang Building after the democratic breakthrough of 1994. Originally, the building was named H.F. Verwoerd Building, named after the architect of Apartheid, Dr. H.F. Verwoerd. The Premier unveiled a statue exactly where the statue of H.F Verwoerd was placed before 1994. This is a strategic break with the unfortunate history of racial segregation and separate development.
The statue of late Cuban revolutionary, dubbed Commandant Fidel Castro, was unveiled at the former C.R. Swart Building, also in Mangaung, Bloemfontein. The building was originally named after the last Governor-General of Union of South Africa from 1959 to 1961, and houses a revolving restaurant on the 26th Floor.
The renaming as well as the unveiling of the statues of these struggle stalwarts is not only an honour to these world-renowned leaders, but also signifies an important strategic shift to practically acknowledge the contributions by such revolutionaries towards nation building and social cohesion. These statues are also a lifetime honour to the hundreds of thousands of those who played a crucial role in the building of a non-racial, non-sexist, united, free, democratic and prosperous South Africa.
The late President O.R. Tambo, who would have turned 100 years this Friday, 27th October 2017, if he was alive, played an important role in the struggle for freedom and democracy in South Africa. He was the glue that kept the ANC as well as the struggle for freedom and democracy together for 30 years when the ANC was banned by the Apartheid regime from 1960 to 1990. When he delivered the 2017 State of the Province in February this year, Hon. Premier Ace Magashule declared 2017 “The Year of Oliver Reginald Tambo”, in honour of this legend.
Late Commandant Fidel Castro, together with the people of Cuba, played an instrumental role in the struggle for South Africa’s freedom and democracy. It is common knowledge that the involvement of the Cuban military forces against the South African Defence Force (SADF) and its allies in Cuito Canavale, Angola, in 1988, played a monumental role in the strategic weakening of the South African Apartheid regime and, consequently, the unbanning of political parties like the ANC and South Africa’s first ever free and fair elections held of 27 April 1994.
“These particular statues that we have in our province; those of President Nelson Mandela, President O.R. Tambo and Commandant Fidel Castro, are an important reconnection with our history as South Africans and to all those who are committed to freedom and peace all over the world. We want all South Africans to honour these heroes and many others who played a role to shape our democracy. We are indebted to all these struggle stalwarts. We will in the near future unveil more statues in honour of heroes like Adelaide Tambo, Kaizer Sebothelo, Caleb Motshabi and Fezile Dabi.” Hon. Premier Dr. Ace Magashule said during the unveilings.