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Named after a past leader of South Africa’s ruling party, the O. R. Tambo Cultural Precinct in Benoni outside of Johannesburg was built in recognition of Oliver Reginald Tambo’s contribution to South African society. Tambo was the lesser known partner (for those in the West at least) in the Tambo-Mandela legal firm of the early 1950s. He and Nelson Mandela had studied together and had formed a strong friendship before starting the practice. Tambo was to go on and lead the African National Congress for 24 years before passing away in 1993 at the age of 75. Key to his success as a leader was his great legal mind and negotiating skills and the O. R. Tambo Cultural Precinct is a fitting tribute to him.
The precinct is located in the Wattville township where he and his family lived for much of their lives and their gravesite has since been declared a National Heritage Site.
Central to the precinct is the narrative centre that leads the visitor through Tambo’s life history and highlights his many achievements. The centre’s interactive exhibits include old photographs, original documents and recorded interviews, and all of the collected material is available on DVD. There is an environmental education centre in the complex, along with an amphitheatre and craft centre. The amphitheatre is available for hire while the other sections are used for educational purposes.
An interesting craft route begins at the narrative centre and ends at the Tamboville cemetery where he and his wife Adelaide are buried.
Every October a festival is held here to celebrate the life and times of Oliver Tambo and features dancing, singing and live music acts.
For those arriving or departing from nearby O. R. Tambo International Airport, set aside a few hours to visit the precinct to learn more of this man who had such an influence on the country’s recent history.