On 21 April 2013, the Rodney Family wrote to President Jacob Zuma, President of the
Republic of South Africa, requesting that the South African Government withdraw or
rescind The Order of the Companions of O.R. Tambo (Oliver Tambo Award) to Linden
Forbes Burnham, a late President of Guyana.
In its letter, the family noted that it is critical to examine the historical basis for this
national award. In 1998, the South African Presidential Advisory Council on National
Orders revised its orders to reflect the spirit of a non-racial, non-sexist democracy
where a culture of human rights prevails. As such, the conduct and character of Forbes
Burnham juxtaposes the reasons the award was established. The family's letter stated
that it was the people of Guyana who made personal sacrifices to contribute to and
stand in solidarity with the South African people in their struggle against apartheid.
A timely and critical article by Dr. Horace Campbell galvanized widespread support.
Global petitions and grassroots action initiated in South Africa, Tanzania, the United
States, Germany, Jamaica, Trinidad, the United Kingdom and Canada, to name a few,
also called for cancellation.
Consequently, President Zuma and the South African government deferred the award
indefinitely. On 30 April 2013, the Rodney family expressed its gratitude for the
immediate intervention. The family is steadfast in its opposition to the Oliver Tambo
Award being given posthumously to Forbes Burnham at any future date.
The Rodney family would like to thank everyone who expressed their commitment to
human rights and social justice by opposing the award. The solidarity and continuing
efforts to uphold the legacy of Walter Rodney are greatly appreciated.