South Africa

South Africans react to OR Tambo statue: 'Can we build houses, healthcare and schools?'

South Africans react to OR Tambo statue: 'Can we build houses, healthcare and schools?'

South Africans have questioned the government's priorities amid an economic crisis and jobs bloodbath which have been worsened by the Covid-19 pandemic.

This after President Cyril Ramaphosa on Tuesday unveiled the statue of Oliver Tambo erected at OR Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg.

Ramaphosa, Ekurhuleni mayor Mzwandile Masina and transport minister Fikile Mbalula were among government officials who attended the unveiling of the statue in Kempton Park. In the 9m tall bronze statue, Tambo is holding the Freedom Charter.

“No disrespect OR Tambo, but we need jobs, we need proper housing and infrastructure, but Ramaphosa is busy with statues that cost millions. I believe Tambo wouldn’t mind if these millions would have been used to save lives rather than him getting the statue,” wrote one Twitter user.

Ramaphosa said he was aware some people were not happy about the amount spent on the statue, saying “it is far, far minuscule” compared to sacrifices made by the ANC's longest-serving leader and the returns expected from the tourist attraction.

He said the statue was a fitting tribute to the struggle stalwart.

“OR Tambo was the architect of our freedom. Thanks to his activism, people living in distant lands got to know of our struggle and gladly joined it. It is, therefore, most fitting that this statue we have erected at the airport is going to be the gateway to the continent and to the world,” said Ramaphosa.

Some ANC critics were not pleased that the statue wears an ANC badge, saying Tambo would not have been proud to be associated with a party mired in allegations of corruption.

Ramaphosa said the statue will be “a major tourist attraction”.

“It is going to be a magnet and essential stop for visitors to the OR Tambo cultural precinct, which is doing so much to preserve the legacy of our great leader.”

These are some of the views shared on Twitter: