Opening of the Oliver Reginald Tambo: The Modest Revolutionary 1917 – 1993 exhibition

About This Project

As part of the celebrations of what would have been Oliver Tambo’s 100th year, had he lived, the “Oliver Reginald Tambo: The Modest Revolutionary 1917 – 1993” exhibition opened at the Apartheid Museum on the 23rd August 2017. The event was opened with a song from Unity Secondary School choir.


In his opening remarks, the Director of the Apartheid Museum, Mr Christopher Till, elaborated that Oliver Tambo played a pivotal role in the fight against apartheid, being the glue that selflessly held the liberation movement together. Lamenting the fact that O.R is not as celebrated and recognised as he should be today, he described the exhibition as one of the ways in which Tambo will be restored to his rightful place.


The keynote speaker, Dr Kingsley Makhubela, who was also OR’s bodyguard in exile, described him as a negotiator and a man thoroughly committed to the struggle. Focussing on his talk on the Harare Declaration and the toll it took on OR’s health, Dr Makhubela took the audience through how when Tambo saw peaceful liberation movements reaching the shores of South Africa, it became clear to him that South Africa would also soon be liberated; this prompted him to start working on a document that would form a blueprint for negotiations for a democratic South Africa – The Consensus Resolution. True to his nature, OR consulted with the ANC leadership and the frontline countries on this document once he had finished it, enriching it further with their input and working tirelessly to have it ready for the OAU summit, where it had been agreed that he would present it. This intensive process led to him missing his medical check-up. When the heads of state at the OAU summit had bought into the document, OR further enhanced it with the recommendations he’d received, preparing to present it to the United Nations a few weeks later. This led him to miss another medical check-up. In true OR fashion, he had a final consultation with all frontline sates on the document before it was presented to the United Nations, travelling six countries in three days. Although he came back visibly exhausted and in dire need of rest, he continued to work on the document. He had a stroke a few days later. The Consensus Resolution, which would later be renamed the Harare Declaration, was unanimously adopted by the United Nations.

Illustrating his unwavering commitment to the struggle for liberation, Makhubela relayed how on one Christmas eve OR travelled from London to Lusaka, missing Christmas with his family in order to convene a meeting with ANC leadership. Shocked and disgruntled, Makhubela asked why they would were working on Christmas Day. OR answered by telling him that “the struggle” does not rest – the people in South Africa are having a miserable Christmas and they need them to keep moving. He described OR as not wanting them to get too comfortable in exile, as that would lead them to not wanting to go back home.


Ms. Linda Vilakazi, the CEO of the Oliver & Adelaide Tambo Foundation, described the day as special not only for the Foundation and the Tambo family, but for South Africa as a whole.


The crowd was then led to an exhibition, which starts with ORs early life, days while training as a teacher, his legal practice, entering politics and his life in exile. Closing off the event, Unity Secondary School Choir entertained the crowd with a few more songs.


The exhibition remains open until the end of September.


Here is the link to the video of the event.



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23 August 2017


Apartheid Museum

2017, Projects