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Johannesburg airport re-named after Tambo

Africa's busiest international airport in Johannesburg was re-named after one of the continent's most prominent leaders - Oliver Reginald Tambo.

india Updated: Oct 27, 2006 15:11 IST
Press Trust of India
Press Trust of India

Africa's busiest international airport in Johannesburg was re-named on Friday after one of the continent's and South Africa's most prominent liberation leaders - Oliver Reginald Tambo.

The OR Tambo International Airport was officially inaugurated by President Thabo Mbeki at an elaborate ceremony attended by Tambo's widow Adelaide and other members of his family, senior government ministers and local officials.

Prior to the function, several white leaders and organisations accused the government of going against its own policy of not re-naming airports after political leaders.

During the Apartheid era the airport was named after Afrikaner prime minister Jan Smuts, but was known simply as the Johannesburg International Airport since 1994.

President Mbeki, slamming opponents of the move, said they did not really know who Tambo was. The late ANC leader, he said, had played a crucial role in bringing about the new democratic and non-racial South Africa.

Tambo went into exile in 1960 to continue the struggles from outside the country. During his more than 40 years in exile, he built up relationships with countries around the world, including India, Britain, Sweden and Norway.

Tambo returned to South Africa in 1990 and died three years later aged 75.

President Mbeki also unveiled a bust of Tambo at the airport as part of the re-naming ceremony.

Former Speaker of South Africa, Frene Ginwala, who is of Indian origin, said she had worked with Tambo for more than two decades in exile. "He was one of the most brilliant, humane, dedicated, and humble leaders that I had worked with. He was the moving figure in our liberation struggles," she said.

First Published: Oct 27, 2006 15:11 IST