Name: Mmarona Mokoena
Student no: 18030221
Oliver Reginald Kaizana Tambo, was born 27 October 1917 in an Eastern Cape village. His mother was the third wife out of four wives to his father. They were a well-respected Christian family. As a young boy he herded cattle and despite his parents being uneducated they made means for him to start school at six. It was required of him to have a ”school name” therefore he was given the name Oliver.
He had a good school career filled with exciting activities such as taking part in the school choir, soccer, cricket and tennis team. Tambo has always been seen as fit to lead as he was elected Head Prefect in high school but rejected this position in favour of another student and took up the position of Deputy Head Prefect instead. At this time his parents died within a year from each other, this pushed Tambo to consume alcohol in order to sooth the pain he felt. He matriculated December 1938 with first class. Initially Oliver wanted to study medicine but since black students were not allowed to study medicine he studied science at Fort Hare College where he met Nelson Mandela at the Students Christian Association.
In 1941 was where his fight for the people initially began where a white person in charge of the university kitchen assaulted Black women working there. The man involved was declared innocent by some sort of justification. Tambo then lead a boycott of classes in protest of the decision made. In 1942 is was then elected as chairperson of the Student Committee by popular vote. He completed his BSci degree in mathematics and physics and thereafter enrolled for higher education.
In 1942 he came to Johanessburg where he met Walter Sisulu, Anton Lembede, Jordan Ngubane and Nelson Mandela, a fellow student from Fort Hare. This was where these young intellectuals collaborated and brainstormed together in how they could make the ANC more accessible to the public. Tambo started to become greatly involved in the discussions of the ANC. He began the idea of grouping of young men which also founded the ANC Youth League. It was then formally accepted in December 1943 by the ANC at its Congress in Botshabelo, Bloemfontein.
In 1948, the National Party (NP) was established. Discriminatory laws against Africans, Indian and Coloureds were increased and apartheid was further infringed. Around this time, Tambo enrolled to study law through correspondence via UNISA. In 1948 he served his articles at a white firm but in late 1949 moved to join the company of Solomon Kowalsky. On 24 July 1951, Tambo qualified as an attorney. Mandela, by now also a qualified lawyer, formed the first black law firm in Chancellor House offices, Johannesburg. They were popular and therefore people came from all around the country seeking their help. When Mandela became banned in 1951 Oliver had to take responsibility of everything on his own.
In 1959, Tambo lead the ANC’s Constitutional Commission. The Tambo Commission recommended that more constitutional recognition be given to the ANC’S Women’s League (ANCWL) and the ANCYL, and endorsed non-racialism and the Freedom Charter, amongst other issues.
After the Sharpeville massacre on 21 March 1960, Tambo went to on a ”Mission Exile”to London, with his wife and three children in attempt to gain international support for the South African liberation movement.
During this time and as head of the ANC’s Mission in Exile, he had to monitor the growing number of ANC exiles, the uMkhonto we Sizwe (MK) military camps (the armed wing of the ANC), fundraising, the setting up of ANC offices around the world, the welfare of ANC team, in exile, were well taken care of and to interact with the international community.
When Mandela slipped out of the country in 1962 they met and discussed the launch MK and armed operations. During 1963 and 1964, Tambo made a number of high profile speeches to present the ANC to the world in places such as the UN, New York and Egypt. In 1963 he became acting president of the ANC. He visited Vietman where he attended a number of classes and meetings with other activists.
In 1987, Tambo chose a high-powered Commission of ANC legal people to draw up a constitution to reflect the kind of country that the ANC wanted for the future. He attended these meeting to guide those involved.
At this point, his career had become his first priority, leaving his family unattended most of the time. His health also lacked do to all the pressure and stress he faced. In 1989 he then suffered from a stroke, slowing done his mobility and threatening his speech his work but irrespective of the state of his health he would continue with his work.
He also worked in collaboration with other organisations such as the Black Consciousness Movement of the great Steve Biko but was set back after his death.
With the unbanning of the ANC in 1990 Tambo came back from exile with his family. In 1991, Tambo was installed as Chancellor of the University of Fort Hare. In the early hours of 24 April 1993, Oliver Reginald Tambo passed away after a heart attack. He was honoured with a state funeral where a large number of friends, supporters, colleagues and heads of state bade him farewell.
OR Tambo clearly made a huge impact on South African history as he put in his mind soul and body. He was a anti-apartheid politician and revolutionary. He fought not with violence but intellectually using all his knowledge of law for a democratic South Africa.
“‘We have a vision of South Africa in which black and white shall live and work together as equals in conditions of peace and prosperity.” _Oliver Reginald Tambo