Living OR Tambo's legacy
“Agreat giant that strode the globe like a colossus” – those were the words one of South Africa's icons – former President Nelson Mandela – used to describe another of the country's greatest sons, Oliver Reginald Tambo.
This year and in October, in particular, South Africa celebrates the centenary of this “great giant”, who was born on 27 October 1917 and was the longest serving President of the ANC, holding that position from 1969 to 1991.
It's an opportune time for us to reflect on the life of one of the founding fathers of our democracy and the many lessons we can learn from him.
Tambo was a freedom fighter, global fighter against racism and sexism, science teacher, choral music lover and communicator par excellence. He was a global colossus who strode the globe so that we can be free, promoting African unity and deepening ties of solidarity between us and the world.
Tambo was selfless, driven by a mission to ensure the liberation of not only South Africa, but other nations as well.
He was also a pioneer, forming the first black law partnership with his great friend, Madiba, in 1951.
In 1960, after the Sharpeville Massacre, the ANC feared increased attacks on their members and
Tambo was asked by the ANC to travel abroad and set up its international mission and mobilise international opinion against the apartheid regime, according to the Oliver and Adelaide Tambo Foundation.
“During his time abroad he was instrumental in the establishment of ANC missions globally, covering 27 countries by 1990. He helped lobby support for the ANC and raised the international reputation of the
ANC to one of great prestige.”
Tambo and his family spent 30 years in exile. When he went into exile he understood that upon his shoulders rested the responsibility of creating a unified front in the fight against apartheid. He spent his life driven by a revolutionary fire and spirit to bring people together to overcome this injustice.
If you speak to the many people he had a profound impact on, or those who had the privilege of learning at his feet, they will tell you that Tambo nurtured and brought the best out of those around him.
His warmth and his wisdom earned him the love and respect of his comrades. He believed in the value of education and the strength of diversity. He understood the strength of women and created opportunities for them to prove their worth.
These are all qualities we should all aspire to as we go about our work in the public service.
Sadly,Tambo never got to see the birth of our democracy, as he suffered a fatal stroke on 24 April 1993. But we are forever indebted to him and his legacy lives on in our Constitution.
A number of events will take place this month to commemorate the legacy and centenary of Tambo. But, as public servants, we should ask ourselves what are we doing as individuals to honour his legacy.
We should embrace Tambo's values daily in the work that we do, as these will help to propel us forward to unite and build the country that he envisioned.“A single, united, democratic and nonracial state, belonging to all who live in it,” as he said in April 1983.
Minister of Communications