Lessons learned from OR Tambo

Friday, September 8, 2017

One of the lessons that Communications Minister Ayanda Dlodlo learned from the late ANC President Oliver Reginald (OR) Tambo was that the people of South Africa are more important than oneself.

“He taught us about the love of people… that all we are about is the people of South Africa. In the work that I do, that is what keeps me going,” Minister Dlodlo said.

She was speaking on Friday during a special broadcast at the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC), which was part of the countdown to the celebrations of the centenary of OR Tambo.

As part of the OR Tambo Centenary celebrations, the SABC, in partnership with government, embarked on a 50-day countdown to the centenary celebration.

During the broadcast, Minister Dlodlo was joined by Brand SA CEO Kingsley Makhubela and former DG Mavuso Msimang as they remembered their leader.

“Most of us who went into exile were too militant… OR helped us not to degenerate into conflict one may define as ethnic conflict because he understood the content of our struggle…” Dr Makhubela said.

Minister Dlodlo, who went into exile as a young woman, remembered how Tambo would bring hygiene essentials for the women.

“We all looked forward to him coming to the camp because we knew he was bringing with him wisdom and direction. We all felt like he was our father. We missed home less when OR was there. He really did exude that presence of a father figure to us,” she said.

Makhubela, who was also Tambo’s former bodyguard, talked about how the two men once travelled from Moscow to London during the festive season. Upon arrival in London, they only spent two days there and then travelled to Lusaka, where they arrived on Christmas Day. Once in Lusaka, Tambo went to church. On his return, he called a meeting with the President’s committee.

“I said to him ‘Chief, it’s Christmas day…’ He asked me who told me that on Christmas Day we don’t struggle. He told me that people at home were having a black Christmas… I was so embarrassed,” Dr Makhubela said.

That conversation stuck with Dr Makhubela throughout his life, as it taught him that being dedicated to a cause meant working Monday to Monday.

“He had a sense of guilt that he was sent to liberate his people and didn’t want to be seen to be enjoying himself. He was more preoccupied with the liberation of the country,” Dr Makhubela said.

Msimang said Tambo was a strategic leader, who realised that for the struggle to gain some form, the best thing to do was to give it a face and that face was the late Nelson Mandela.

“That catapulted Mandela into the world hero that he became... When the defiance campaign had happened in 1952, he was the first to volunteer. When Umkhonto weSizwe (MK) was formed in 1961, the first commander-in-chief was Nelson Mandela and he made his famous speech during the Rivonia Trial… when he spoke about why he was willing to die,” he said.

Msimang described Tambo as highly ethical, a great person who derived his authority from humility and was non-authoritarian.

“One attribute that I really cherish the most from OR is his capacity to listen and his capacity to convince people. Travelling with him around the world, I had the opportunity to see him interacting with heads of state, foreign ministers, anti-apartheid activists and labour activists to galvanise and pull them together to support the anti-apartheid struggle.

“His capacity to convince people to support the cause of the South African people was one of his greatest attributes,” Dr Makhubela said. – SAnews.gov.za     

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