Visiting South African President Jacob Zuma today gave a moving tribute of late African National Congress (ANC) leader Oliver Reginald Tambo when he joined his Zambian counterpart Edgar Lungu in unveiling the “O.R Tambo Heritage site” in Lusaka.

Remembering Tambo’s contribution to the liberation struggle, Zuma said if the late ANC leader was involved in the freedom negotiations with the Apartheid regime, South Africa would have gotten a better deal.

“OR Tambo was an extra ordinary leader recognised by many. He had already worked, they knew his power, his strength, his capability. And this is what brought such questions to many of us particularly at the point when it was clear that negotiations in south Africa were no longer a far-fetched reality. We needed this man, we needed this leader to be part of that process. Yes the process went on very well but to many who knew him, there could have been elements that he would have put to be at another level,” President Zuma said.

President Zuma said Tambo supported a campaign for the release of political prisoner in South Africa.

“I thought I should say this because it is indeed an emotional moment that takes us back to our struggle to its different levels and contribution made by our leaders. But amongst them, OR Tambo, implementing the decision of the national executive committee, he traveled the world and mobilized the world to support the Africa National Congress, to support a campaign to release the political prisoners which included a big potion of the leadership. He finally convinced many and the world began to move in one direction leading to the United Nation declaring apartheid as a crime against humanity,” he recalled.

“One foreign secretary in the United Kingdom who met him for the first time towards the end of her struggle confessed that ‘I should have met you president Tambo earlier than now because you have changed me today’. He was a debater, he was a mathematician, a scientist. You could not argue with him. I often tell young people that one time in Angola in the meeting of the national executive committee, we were arguing all of us against him, he defeated us in the argument.”

“I said to him during the break that president you were today using your mathematics, your English, your law to defeat us. At the end, he compromised and explained why he had to compromise. He carried the ANC united under most difficult conditions. ANC is a big organization complex, he understood it inside out. And therefore honoring this man and having site that we touch his name is one of the most important contribution to the freedom fighters of south Africa.”

President Zuma said he would never forget the role Zambia played in helping South Africa liberate itself.

“Let me thank you Mr President and the people of Zambia for this wonderful opportunity to jointly launch the OR Tambo heritage site today in the presence of the first and former president of the Zambian Republic our father Kenneth Kaunda and indeed the two delegations from both countries and the personalities form Zambia. It is an act that speaks volumes for our relationship, we will never forget Zambia and its role that it played. And I also want to thank our father president Kaunda because by being here, you have blessed us and blessed this occasion. This occasion today your Excellency the President Mr Lungu is a bond of the powerful symbol between our two countries and people,” said President Zuma.

Meanwhile President Edgar Lungu said the honouring of late president Tambo marked the celebration of South Africa and Zambia’s own heritage.

“Dr Kaunda allocated this house to Oliver Tambo and African National Congress as a safe house for south Africa’s liberation struggle. This occasion signals our long journey of tracing our legacies that speaks the history of the Southern Africa Development Committee (SADC) and Pan Africanism. We have for a long time been reading history written by others as you have already heard and the heritage recognised by colonialists. Time has come for us to celebrate our own heritage,” said President Lungi