Item 1166 - Tribute Paid to Oliver Reginald Tambo at a Private Service Arranged by the Tambo Family

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ZA COM MR-S-1166


Tribute Paid to Oliver Reginald Tambo at a Private Service Arranged by the Tambo Family


  • 1993-04-28 (Creation)

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Transcription of speech made by Mr Mandela

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(18 July 1918-5 December 2013)

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Migrated from the Nelson Mandela Speeches Database (Sep-2018).

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ANC Archives, Office of the ANC President, Nelson Mandela Papers, University of Fort Hare

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  • English

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It is a difficult moment when one is expected to objectify the achievements of a man who has been a brother in every sense of the word.
The many decades of experiences from youth through marriage, raising of families, political imprisonment and exile are crowded with memories of love, solidarity and comradeship that cannot be compressed in to a few words. Shall I say that we have not at this moment grappled with the enormity of our loss.
To Oliver's family , his wife my sister Adelaide, the children and grandchildren, the only words of comfort I can offer is that in time we will be able to understand the vision of Oliver Tambo and put it to use for ourselves and for our people who have also lost a father and a great leader .
I met Oliver Tambo as a young man at Fort Hare university, and in time we came to grow so close that we complemented each other in the difficult demands of the struggle. He had a penetrating mind which informed the cause of the struggle for six decades.
In the ANCYL during the forties, in the DefiANCe Campaigns of the fifties, the decision to embark on armed struggle in the sixties. Oliver together with other comrades like Walter Sisulu, Govan Mbeki, Raymond Mhlaba, Jack Hodgeson, Joe Slovo and others evolved the principles upon which our liberation movement, the ANC , grew from an organisation which had its membership based mainly amongst African intellectuals to a broad based national liberation movement which incorporated the aspirations of all South Africans.
He recognised that the majority of our people who had been deprived of education were one in oppression with the few who had the privilege of education. To him the link between thought and action was always an imperative. Like the trained teacher he was, he believed that the people of South Africa could be empowered to chart their own course to freedom with the instrument of powerful ideas.
Thus came about the grand strategy which mobilsied tens of thousands of South Africans into protests and demonstrations against apartheid laws. This was the inception of organised militant mass action in South Africa, which led to the banning of the ANC and the consequent decision to embark on armed struggle.
When the ANC NEC made the decision for him to leave the country, he understood immediately that it was his lot to keep the fire of freedom alive in order to save the country that he loved. There was no hesitation or second thoughts. He gave up his career, any thought of a normal family life and went into the unknown determined to nurture the ANC into a powerful liberation movement that would bring freedom to the people of South Africa. The rest is history.
Through Oliver's stewardship MK became a force to be reckoned with, a defender of the people's right to fight for their destiny of equality, non racialism, non sexism and unity.
Oliver was a decisive leader who challenged the apartheid regime fearlessly. He created a political army whose code of conduct and operational norms held up the highest standards of political morality and ethics. His influential command was evident and even though he became a target of great pressures inside and outside the movement he adhered to the standard of fighting the system and not directing military action against civilians. Oliver Tambo was a revolutionary and a true Christian. He held freedom to be man's most supreme human right and held that every challenge MK faced had to be confronted with the highest regard to human life.
He charted the historic Geneva protocol on the status of political prisoners. The protocol, which he signed on behalf of the ANC, recognises the status of MK cadres as political prisoners of war and not criminals. The protocols have been incorporated into the annals of international law and became the basis upon which indemnity was achieved for exiles and political prisoners.
Oliver recognised that the 1976 generation could inject the struggle with renewed vigour and he welcomed their entry into the ranks of the ANC. He paid personal attention to both their education and their military training. He saw the need to replicate the leadership of the ANC at all times and in those youths , who today are the commanders in MK, and are leading the debate on our cultural policies , educational and political policies, we see a living testimony to the spirit , vision and dedication of Oliver Tambo.
His leadership in the Revolutionary Council of the ANC steered the anger of the people who had suffered the most severe repression known in modern times, into the strategy that led to the concept of people's power and rendering the organs of state power ungovernable.
Throughout our long imprisonment Oliver never usurped leadership powers to himself; he took fastidious steps to ensure that we were consulted about every move of the struggle. He believed in collective leadership and did not engage in any facet of struggle for personal gain.
With his explicit mobilisation of the international community, he built a strong anti apartheid movement that kept the issue of political prisoners at the centre stage of all campaigns.
The name of the ANC became a by word in international conferences, cultural manifestations and international campaigns for South Africa's freedom. He unfurled the flag of the banned ANC at home and abroad.
The negotiations process that we are engaged in at present cost Oliver his health and indeed his life. He pursued every avenue, consulting all members of the frontline states and the OAU to produce the Harare declaration that was a precursor to the negotiations process.
Today we must also honour his wife and family for their steadfast support of Oliver even at the cost of their family life. We salute them.
The many messages of condolences that we have received from great and small declare better than we can ever do, that Oliver was a titan of struggle and an exceptional son of South Africa and the continent as a whole.
We rededicate ourselves to pursue the struggle until we have gained liberation for all the people of South Africa, confident that his life's work will serve as an example to emulate.

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Acquisition method: Hardcopy ; Source: ANC Archives, Office of the ANC President, Nelson Mandela Papers, University of Fort Hare. Accessioned on 19/01/2010 by Zintle Bambata




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