To celebrate Oliver Reginald Tambo’s 100th birthday, the Oliver & Adelaide Tambo Foundation held the Oliver Tambo Centenary Lecture at the University of the Witswatersrand’s Great Hall on the 27th October 2017. More than just a lecture, the event was a celebration of the life and legacy of Oliver Tambo with music from Wits Choir, Unity Secondary School Choir and Ladysmith Black Mambazo. There was also an Oliver Tambo Exhibition, display and sales of the newly launched Oliver Tambo coins, Oliver Tambo portraits, books about Oliver Tambo and the Oliver Tambo Big Book.
In her opening remarks, programme director Masechaba Ndlovu described the event as a wonderful opportunity for everyone to continue to learn about who OR was, in order to be able to espouse the values that he held. In line with the devout Christian that OR was, the proceedings were preceded by a prayer from Archbishop Thabo Makgoba. In his welcome address, the Deputy Chairperson of the Oliver and Adelaide Tambo, Mr Duma Nkosi thanked President Thabo Mbeki for agreeing to speak at this prestigious event.
In his keynote address, President Thabo Mbeki described OR as a defining player in the evolution of the ANC and South Africa. He spoke about the occasions that the ANC faced threats, elaborating specifically on the three occasions. Documenting the difficulties that the ANC faced in the 1940s, President Mbeki highlighted the central role OR played in its resurrection as the first Secretary General of the ANC youth league, and later the Secretary General and Deputy President of the ANC. This newly revived ANC came back so strong a threat to the Apartheid government, that it was banned. At the time of its banning, the ANC sent OR into exile to establish their external mission, where he once again played a central role in resurrecting an ANC that had almost been wiped out. This led to him heading the campaign that resulted in the democratic victory of 1994. President Mbeki maintained that heartfelt gratitude should be given to Oliver Tambo for the role he played in the leadership of the ANC and the broader democratic movement, such that it survived the repression brought unto it in the 1960s.
Describing further the events that faced the ANC in its 105 years of existence, he described its current and most challenging strategic threat as unfortunately its current members, especially when we no longer have Oliver Tambo among us – a leader who had successfully defeated other challenges. He went on to explain that to defeat this challenge, it would then be imperative that those who admire Oliver Tambo act in a manner that emulates examples set by him. Conveying his judgement that Oliver Tambo should be bestowed with the title of Father of South Africa’s Democracy, he described him as a decisive, leading and defining player.
Speaking on behalf the Tambo family, Mr Dali Tambo thanked everyone who had been involved in the celebration of Oliver Tambo’s life throughout the year. On behalf of the Oliver & Adelaide Tambo Foundation, Ms Linda Vilakazi thanked not only those who were in the audience, but the sponsors who made the whole event possible.
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27 October 2017
University of the Witwatersrand, Great Hall