Former ANC president Oliver Reginald Tambo was the type of leader who served his people with love and selflessness because he knew they owed him nothing, said President Jacob Zuma said on Thursday.
"It is clear to me that he was a leader that had the calling to serve the people of South Africa," said Zuma.
"He was able to do this because of his character - that of being a disciplined and highly principled leader."
Zuma was speaking at the unveiling of a life-size statue of the late struggle leader at his namesake airport.
The event comes amidst criticism of Zuma's leadership of the country and the ANC after he reshuffled his Cabinet for the second time this year.
This reshuffle saw SACP general secretary Blade Nzimande axed as minister of higher education.
READ: SACP Members Will Remain In ANC Structures, For Now
The SACP - along with the Congress of South African Trade Unions - which is part of the tripartite alliance with the ANC, have been vocal with their criticism of Zuma and calls for him to step down.
The turning point in the relationship was when SACP deputy general secretary Solly Mapaila publicly announced that Zuma had used a "dodgy" intelligence report to fire Pravin Gordhan as the finance minister, and his deputy Mcebisi Jonas during the controversial late night March Cabinet reshuffle.
Zuma said on Thursday that it would be a fitting tribute to OR Tambo for all in the country, including black people, to participate in its economy.
"We need to ensure that black industrialists and black SOE's (state-owened enterprises) get to participate in the aviation economy and value chain."
The president said the statue was a fitting tribute to Tambo.
READ:ANC 2017: The Year Of OR Tambo (Turning In His Grave)
Zuma also condemned the recent spate of attacks related to the airport - including those in which travellers are followed home before being robbed.
"We strongly condemn the reported incidents of crime associated with the airport. Some local and international passengers have been attacked leaving the airport.
"We take this crime very seriously. Law enforcement agencies have been instructed to ensure that such attacks come to an end and that criminals are brought to book and indeed a team has been assembled from all agencies to work on this critical intervention," Zuma explained.
"We must uphold the memory of OR Tambo by making this airport and every other part of our country safe."
Police said on Saturday that they had made a breakthrough with the "airport-following" robberies. Six suspects were arrested.