Hundred and Six Years ago today, a baby was born in the village of Mbizana in the Pondoland of the Eastern Cape. Unknown to his parents, the baby boy would play a pivotal role in the struggle for freedom and democracy in South Africa. The African National Congress takes this opportunity to remember, honour, and celebrate President Oliver Reginald Tambo whose 106 anniversary of his birth, we celebrate today.
OR as he was affectionately known was among the founding members of the ANC Youth League (ANCYL) in 1944 and became its first Secretary General. The ANCYL brought a bold, new spirit of militancy into the ANC. Tambo was elected to the National Executive Committee of the ANC in 1948 and he remained a member of the National Executive Committee for 45 Years until his passing in 1993.
When the apartheid government banned the liberation movements following the Sharpeville massacre, the African National Congress directed Cde Oliver Tambo to go out of the country to mobilize support for the South African struggle. It was through his stewardship that the African National Congress established its presence in many countries throughout the world. He was instrumental in garnering international support and solidarity with the South African struggle, including the isolation of apartheid South Africa.
Oliver Tambo is also remembered as a fierce gender activist who understood that our freedom would never be complete until women were emancipated from triple oppression. In his own words: “South Africa will never be free as long as women are not free. The mobilisation of women is the task, not only of women alone, or of men alone, but of all of us, men and women alike, comrades in struggle. It was on
Oliver Tambo’s watch that Umkhonto we Sizwe – ANC’s military wing – accepted and encouraged women to join the armed struggle. Women were a pivotal element of the armed revolutionary battle, fighting alongside their menfolk and playing critical roles in the movement.
Throughout the difficult challenges of being exiled and spearheading the struggle from outside the country, Cde Tambo demonstrated his leadership by ensuring that the ANC remained united through all the difficulties it faced.
Amongst the many leadership attributes that Oliver Tambo possessed was the capacity to see ahead of his time and to recognise what will arise in the course of our struggle, “Comrades, you might think it is very difficult to wage a liberation struggle, wait until you are in power. I might be dead by then. At that stage, you will realize that it is more difficult to keep the power than to wage a liberation war. People will be expecting a lot of services from you, you will have to satisfy the various demands of the masses of our people” said Tambo speaking in Angola in 1977.
In his leadership, Oliver Tambo would never put his interests or even the interests of his organisation ahead of the wider interest of the struggle and the wider interest of his people. He would always look for elements that would unite the organisation and not harp on things which disunite the organisation.
When he returned to South Africa after three decades of exile, Oliver Tambo told the ANC: “I have devotedly watched over the organisation all these years. I now hand it back to you, bigger, stronger – intact. In his memory and in keeping with his illustrious legacy, the ANC calls on all its cadres to direct their energies towards the unity and renewal agenda. Guard our precious movement.”
As we continue to pursue the ANC’s commitment to renew itself and occupy the space as a leader of society, we call on all our members and leaders to emulate the leadership qualities exuded by Oliver Tambo.
We call on our members to develop and sharpen our shared understanding of the strategic and tactical goals that our movement seeks to achieve as adopted by the 55th National Conference and further enunciated in our 111th Anniversary statement. We make a clarion call to our members and leaders
alike to have a common commitment to act to achieve these goals, ready to make the necessary sacrifices.
The African National Congress takes this opportunity to remember and honour not just the longest- serving President of the African National Congress but also the longest-serving member of its National Executive Committee.
ISSUED BY THE AFRICAN NATIONAL CONGRESS
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