ANC O.R. Tambo Memorial Lecture delivered in Chris Hani Region by the ANC-Eastern Cape Provincial Secretary Cde Oscar Mabuyane
I am honoured and privileged to stand here before you today to reflect on the legendary political life of President Oliver Reginald Tambo, a universally acknowledged giant of freedom and one of South Africa’s most admired leaders of the 20th century. Had he still be alive, Cde O.R. would have celebrated his 100th Birthday this year.
However, we must be reminded that on the occasion of his funeral in 2nd May 1993, in his speech President Nelson Mandela strongly highlighted that: “Oliver Tambo has not died because the ideals for which he sacrificed his life can never die.
I say that Oliver Tambo has not died because the ideals of freedom, human dignity and respect for every individual cannot perish. I say he has not died because there are many of us who became part of his soul and therefore willingly entered into a conspiracy with him, for the victory of his cause.
While the ANC lives, Oliver Tambo cannot die!”
In honour of his memory and his outstanding contribution to the struggle, the National Executive Committee saw it necessary and appropriate to dedicate his centenary to him. The declaration is that this is the year of Oliver Reginald Tambo and we are ALL called to Deepen Unity! NOT IN RHETORIC BUT THROUGH GENUINE ACTIONS!
Since most of us here, actually know about the legendary political life of O.R. Tambo from lived experiences and through other means, I will narrate his autobiography, but I will share my understanding of the meaning of O.R.’s well-lived political life as it relates to the liberation struggle. Given this perspective, it is unavoidable that when I speak of O.R., we have to do this in the context of the historical progression of the ANC, and therefore the overall liberation movement of our country.
We engage in this political reflection not because it is a nice thing to do or because it may be fashionable, but because we appreciate that in any protracted struggle “the struggle of man against power is the struggle of memory against forgetting” as articulated by the writer Milan Kundera. Kundera goes on to explain that “the first step in liquidating a people is to erase its memory. Destroy its books, its culture, its history, Then have somebody write new books, manufacture a new culture, invent a new history. Before long the nation will begin to forget what it is and what it was. The world around it will forget even faster”.
Indeed, the premise that we ought to depart from is that we have collective responsibility to the memory of OR Tambo, and a host of other heroes and heroines, who threw their weight with the oppressed, thus opening themselves up to persecution, harassment, injury, imprisonment, house arrests, banishment, exile and death. Among these, many could not have the chance to enjoy the days of their lives, which come but once, having chosen to trade the comforts of indifference for the rough journey of struggle. Oliver Tambo’s life is the epitome of this historical experience.
Moreover, though this reflection must help us to critically assess on the lessons, qualities and defining moments of our past leaders to see what relevance we can draw for our present situation.
Indeed it is a matter of the fact that many of the challenges that confront the movement are not new, but some are historical, while some are informed by the new realities of governing. It must be said that we are standing on the shoulders of giants of the revolution who paved the path to the attainment of a National Democratic Society through the political victory of 1994, and which ended white minority rule in our country.
Indeed, the movement under the presidency of O.R. also faced enormous challenges, but as a leader, he had a way to go through the challenges in a manner that was COMMITTED, THOUGHTFUL and PRINCIPLED. I will make actual examples of the manifestation of these qualities later.
Values and Principles of Cde O.R. Tambo
Perhaps it is worth noting that among the key attributes that distinguish President O.R. Tambo, qualities which have also shaped the ANC over time and in turn has moulded an ANC as a leading force, successfully executed the liberation struggle are:
§ His unwavering commitment to serving the people of South Africa with no expectation of any personal benefit: this affirmed a value system at the centre of which is respect for the fundamental principle and practice that leaders are there to serve the people;
§ His sustained determination to conduct himself in his personal life so that at all times he would never betray the ethical standards which the masses he represented and led viewed as fundamental to their definition of themselves;
§ His commitment, to its fullest extent, of the entirety of his enormous intellectual capacity and personal energy to pursue the objectives of the National Democratic Revolution;
§ His ability as an outstanding strategist to lead the broad forces of the National Democratic Revolution through the twists and turns of an ever-changing and therefore dynamic national, continental and international situation, ensuring that the revolution did not lose its focus on its fundamental goals;
§ His flexibility as a master tactician of the National Democratic Revolution, requiring the necessary command of detail, which enabled him correctly to identify the tactical manoeuvring which would be imperative to sustain the advance of the democratic revolution towards its victory;
§ His capacity to communicate well-thought-out, clear and relevant messages to the mass