Remembering Tambo: He was friendly to everyone, says friend

Friday, October 27, 2017

Nomahomba Nzima, 78, was only 17 years old when Oliver Tambo got married to his wife Adelaide. Although she was a young girl at the time, Nzima cannot forget the “handsome and charismatic” Tambo and his bright smile during the wedding day to his wife in 1956.

“He was very handsome, spoke well and friendly to everyone, I can never forget the day of his wedding to his equally beautiful wife,” Nzima said on Friday.

“He had this unassuming look and was always humble, there was no doubt he would one day be leading because he possessed leadership qualities,” said Nzima, who had retied to Nkantolo after years in Johannesburg. She is one of more than 10 000 people who braved the cold weather on Friday to gather at Tambo’s birth place to honour the icon of South Africa’s struggle for liberation in a year he would have turned 100.

Although Tambo never lived enough to witness South Africa’s first democratic elections in 1994, his legacy lives on and the centenary celebrations at his home village of Nkantolo, Eastern Cape on Friday proved that he still yields immense respect among South Africans even as he lay in his grave.

Government has devoted 2017 to the celebration of Tambo’s life and the work of the man for whom the continent’s biggest and busiest airport is named. Throughout the week, scores of people have paid tribute to Tambo, describing his contribution to South Africa’s freedom as unsurpassed.

Communications Minister Mmamoloko Kubayi, who was one of many Cabinet Ministers who attended the centenary, described Tambo as a leader who kept the ANC together when the party was at its weakest.

“Without him and his ability to maintain the struggle and keep the liberation movement together, we would probably never arrived where we are today. His contribution is something all of us need to cherish and celebrate,” said Minister Kubayi.

Long-time comrade and former Minister Pallo Jordan described Tambo as a disciplined leader who remained humble throughout his life.

“He remained humble in everything he did and he showed this at an early age in his life and kept at it throughout,” Jordan said.

Statue unveiled in his honour

Last week, government honoured Tambo when it unveiled a statue in his honour at OR Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg.

Although the majority of the people who packed a large white marquee, where the celebrations were held on Friday, never knew Tambo personally nor ever met him, his well-documented contribution to South Africa’s struggle for liberation was enough for these people to leave everything else to celebrate the icon’s birthday.

As the longest leader of the governing African National Congress (ANC), Tambo’s resilience and contribution to the liberation movement is unmatched. It is because of this unsurpassed contribution to South Africa’s freedom by Tambo that probably caused devastation amongst South Africans when he suffered his first stroke in 1989 and his subsequent death four years later.

OR, as Tambo was fondly known, commanded respect internationally and several African countries opened their doors to ANC comrades due to his influence and leadership. His long-time friend and comrade, the late Nelson Mandela regarded him as a spiritual brother. Tambo was a devoted Christian, who was forced to abandon his love for preaching and teaching, to engage in a struggle to free South Africa from the chains of an oppressive system. Mandela and Tambo forged a lasting friendship in and outside politics and had great respect for each other as the first black lawyers to open a law firm in Johannesburg.

A remarkable human being

President Jacob Zuma, who spoke at the centenary event Friday, described Tambo as a remarkable human being, consummate freedom fighter and an outstanding leader.

“Comrade Tambo undertook this enormous responsibility with the strength of an elephant, razor-sharp focus and unequalled wisdom. He also remained humble, treating everyone he interacted with as the most important people he had come across,” President Zuma said to echoing applause from those next to him on the stage that included Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa.

Tambo earned the respect of his various audiences and together with his comrades, they succeeded to build a formidable international movement against apartheid and support for freedom fighters inside South Africa and abroad, President Zuma said.

“Comrade Tambo’s leadership in mobilising the international community put our struggle on top of the agenda of international bodies such as the United Nations and also the Organisation for African Unity. The declaration by the UN of apartheid as a crime against humanity is largely a tribute to his tireless efforts,” he said.

The President said Tambo’s distinguished himself in leading the ANC when it faced some of the most intractable problems since its establishment in 1912.

“During his leadership of the ANC thousands of young people left South Africa to join the ranks of the MK and the ANC. They were scattered in far-flung corners of the globe often under desperate conditions.”

Kept the liberation movement together

President Zuma remarked that sometimes the frustrations of living in exile under difficult conditions surfaced and morale often tumbled. But it is thanks to Tambo’s leadership skills that the liberation movement was kept together, and that the struggle continued in earnest.

Tambo demonstrated his leadership when he convened the Morogoro Conference in 1969 to address some of the challenges facing the ANC in exile and to chart a way forward in the struggle for liberation, he added.

Many say although death fell on Tambo on the eve of South Africa’s democratic elections, something he had fought for his entire life, his legacy lives on. His village of Nkantolo today has electricity, water and tarred roads, so do many other villages across South Africa. Children have access to education and all South African are equal before the law. These are the ideals he fought for and today’s impressive turnout at the celebration of his 100th birthday is an indication that his memory will probably live on for another 100 years and beyond. –










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