Story and pictures by Vusi Shabalala
It is official. The KwaZulu-Natal Department of Public Works Head Office building is now known as the OR Tambo House. The Honourable Mr RR Pillay, MEC for Human Settlements and Public Works in KwaZulu Natal unveiled a plaque honouring struggle veteran OR Tambo and officially named the KwaZulu-Natal Department of Public Works Head Office Building at 191 Prince Alfred Street in Pietermaritzburg in Mr Tambo's honour. The ceremony took place on Thursday, 28 December 2017 at 11.00 at the entrance to Head Office.
HOD Mr Mdadane with MEC Pillay during the unveiling of the OR Tambo plaque
The Acting Head of Department, Mr Thulani Mdadane who rendered an opening and welcome remarks and MEC Ravigasen Ranganathan Pillay, who delivered a keynote address, graced the event. It is of importance to note that amongst the executives was the Chief Director for Corporate Services, Mr Phiweyo Duma and the Director for HRM, Mr Glen Sithole, Mr Gcina Hadebe, the Midlands Regional Director, Mr Clement Luthuli, eThekwini District Director and many other Directors from Head Office and those acting on their behalf and personnel including stakeholders, guests and media representatives attended the occasion.
Mr Mthokozisi Nene, an ever-eloquent Programme Director, was well articulate and spot-on in managing such a heavy and symbolic event. He is that person with adequate knowledge and information about Public Works’ business and can handle different departmental events with zeal and zest. Interestingly, the event was well supported by most staff members, needless to realise that the period was where most officials took vacation time-off for the holiday season.
In his address, MEC Pillay remarked, “We need to avoid the tendency to look for problems and blaming one another, especially when dysfunctional operations emerge within an institution but rather work towards a common goal of seeking a positive solution as a collective.” According to Mr Pillay, OR Tambo’s leadership legacy has afforded us the time and platform to provide solutions for current challenges and further inspire ourselves to work towards a better future for all. He further reiterated, “We cannot have everything we need at once. We need to begin to emulate the leadership qualities and principles of OR Tambo that will assist everyone to do and talk optimistically of the future with the confidence that our determination and resilience will pay positive dividends in the future.”
It is the leaderships’ confidence that has been key on the decision in choosing and announcing the new name for the building. It is realistic that the product or service by the department including its clientele and audience has not changed but the commonly used “191 Building” jargon never accurately and appropriately represented Public Works or Government. This reason is sound and legitimate. In addition, this formed part of the provincial celebrations marking the centenary of OR Tambo's birth. The building serves as the Head Office for the department of Public Works in Pietermaritzburg. Premier Willies Mchunu made an announcement in his state of the province speech earlier in the year that the late freedom struggle veteran would be honoured by the provincial government. This was followed by consultations with the Oliver and Adelaide Tambo Foundation and the family who agreed to the naming of the building.
The second and crucial part of the programme was the unveiling of the OR Tambo plague, erected at the reception area of the building. Mr Mdadane led MEC Pillay to the plaque while the entire throng followed. As Mr Pillay gently unrolled the black soft velvet curtain from the plaque, the reception area amazingly got very quiet. At that moment, one could feel the solemn occasion dignified with its tranquillity, while the heartbeat echoed sounds of ‘freedom’, on the other hand, the gathering was characterised by that deep and heartfelt sincerity. Hereafter, the jubilance prevailed as songs and ululation got to the peak, while a management photo shoot next to the plaque got underway.
As the programme came to close, the MEC and all guests were treated to a finger lunch, where after, it was business as usual. It is official; Public Works Head Office building is now OR Tambo House.