In memory of O.R. Tambo

Posted on October 27, 2017


Today we salute the memory of Oliver Reginald — O. R. — Tambo, intellectual and idealist with an iron will who held together the disparate “broad church” of the ANC in exile. October 27 is 100 years since the birth of of this honest, but pragmatic politician, who saw unity of the movement as the priority in order to defeat apartheid; it must have concerned him greatly that this meant often having to turn a blind eye to venal, corrupt and abusive elements that functioned within the ANC in those years.

It was he who demanded the establishment of a school for the fleeing generation of 1976. That the Somafco project, like so much else in the exile years, failed to achieve the potential he and others had hoped for, was perhaps inevitable given the ideological differences that existed and the levels of corruption among a number of individuals on whom he had to rely in order to maintain unity.

The idea was that nothing should be allowed to divert attention from the struggle against apartheid; that to spend time on dealing with internal problems, should be ignored if they threatened unity or dealt with by the security department.

Practice was all too often simply contrary to the expressed principles of the ANC; principles O.R. Tambo took to the world. And abusive practices often led to rebelliousness that led, in turn, to sometimes gross human rights abuses by a security department that dubbed such protests as “enemy action” that was clearly “counter revolutionary”.

That many of the corrupt and abusive exile elements have risen to prominence in post apartheid South Africa is a stain on the name of O.R. Tambo and the principles he espoused for an egalitarian and honest country.

 Terry & Barbara Bell, 1981 with Somafco some primary students and O. R.Tambo.

Posted in: Commentary