South Africa: Honor Forbes Burnham for his uncompromising support for African liberation.
It has come to our attention that the South African Government withdrew its award of the Order of Companions of OR Tambo that it had earlier conferred on Guyana's Founding President, Forbes Burnham. In announcing the award, the South African Government extolled Burnham 'for his dedication to the liberation of his country, Guyana, as well as the African continent. He established diplomatic relations with many African countries and expressed solidarity with the liberation movement and freedom fighters in South Africa. This solidarity with the leaders of the ANC strengthened relations between Guyana and South Africa.' The historical record of Burnham's unequivocal and uncompromising support for African liberation is clear and unambiguous. From 1974 to 1985, the year of his death, Forbes Burnham, on behalf of the government and people of Guyana, contributed $US100,000.00 annually to the African Liberation Fund. The Burnham administration provided Guyanese passports to ANC, ZANU, ZAPU and SWAPO activists, enabling them to travel internationally. The apartheid regimes in South Africa and other Southern African countries denied passports to those freedom fighters. Hundreds of South African, Zimbabwean and Namibian students studied in Guyana during, and after, the liberation struggles. The Burnham administration allowed Cuban planes to refuel in Guyana on their way to Angola with Cuban troops to fight alongside MPLA freedom fighters. Guyanese troops also fought alongside MPLA freedom fighters. Some died! President Burnham was uncompromising in his support for the economic, cultural and sporting boycott of South Africa and Ian Smith's Rhodesia. Hundreds of Guyanese technocrats were sent to Zambia to assist in that country's development. The above is not an exhaustive list of Burnham's contributions to the African liberation struggle. Those who object to Burnham receiving the OR Tambo Award are his political opponents. Their agendum is to traduce him. South Africa's agendum ought to be to honor those, like Burnham, who stood firmly and uncompromisingly on the side of African freedom fighters, at great risk and at a time when it was not the popular thing to do. President Burnham remained faithful to his convictions until he died. The South African government's decision to reverse its decision is clearly misguided and an insult to the memory of President Burnham and Oliver Tambo!