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This resource is hosted by the Nelson Mandela Foundation, but was compiled and authored by Padraig O’Malley. It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.

Hamba kahle, father and leader


The SACP sadly dips its banner in honour of one of the greatest leaders our struggle, and our country have ever nurtured. Comrade Tambo's contribution was national, continental and global. He was a patriot, he was an internationalist.

As a young man in the late 1940s and through the 1950s, he helped to transform the African National Congress into the mass based formation it is today.

Through the difficult years of exile, it was comrade Tambo who (more than any other) turned exile from a retreat into a challenge; from a challenge into a world-wide movement of solidarity.

From his exile, comrade Tambo turned the tables on those who enforced his exile. The apartheid rulers exiled him, and for their pains they found themselves becoming the real exiles, more and more banished from the world community of nations.

Our own national struggle benefitted enormously from the huge international solidarity movement that comrade OR helped to build. But, in mobilising millions of people around the world, comrade OR also helped us, South Africans, to make our proudest contribution to world civilisation, in the struggle of rea-son against racism, of decency against chauvinism, of liberation against colonialism and its terrible legacy.

Today, having failed to smash and liquidate our ANC-led liberation movement, our more sophisticated opponents are trying to reconstruct an ANC in their own image. And in doing this they try, above all, to drive wedges in all directions.

They try to present different aspects of our movement as necessarily in contradiction with each other.

They try to pit youth against older people, diplomacy against mass struggle, or negotiations against militancy.

The abiding example of comrade OR teaches us another lesson altogether. This great international diplomat never for-got his soldiers in the camps. This elder statesman cut his political teeth as a militant youth leaguer. This quiet, re-served man was the most determined of revolutionaries. This architect of the Harare Declaration was also, and at the very moment of the signing of the Harare Declaration, the head of Operation Vula.

Did all of these facets make our leader a man of contradictions?

Nothing could be further from the truth. Never was a person so absolutely serene, integrated, composed.

He was, and is, loved by everyone in our movement, young and old, soldier and administrator, underground veteran and diplomat.

As Communists we remember, in particular, comrade Tambo's enduring contribution to building and deepening the unity between our Party and the ANC. He was the greatest champion of unity of all democratic forces.

He also taught us Communists a sense of humility. For here was a non-Communistwho taught us real lessons in internationalism, in practical dialectics, in revolutionary discipline. Here was a devout Christian who taught us the practical meaning of a scientific approach to poli-tics.

For those of us privileged to work at times under comrade OR's direction, we remember him as a great and patient listener. As a leader who would, only after very careful consideration, provide a clear judgement.

Even in death now, one cannot help feeling that he is carefully listening and considering. I have the unnerving sense that when I have finished this tribute, he will deliver a verdict.

I like to believe that the verdict will be much the same as the message he sent to our Party's 7th Congress in Cuba in 1989. At the time, Comrade OR, more than anyone, understood that a new phase was about to open up within our country, that negotiations were impending. This is what he told us then:

. "As never before, we need to move, arm in arm, shoulder to shoulder, with all our allies, friends and supporters. Within our movement we need to close ranks now as never before...

. "...let us consolidate and strengthen our alliance and advance in concert. Let us remain vigilant and watch out for those forces who never leave the boardrooms where they studiously plot our own undoing. Our victories are many and significant, but now, more than ever before, we need to defeat them in order to secure our offensive and ensure our advance to the victory of our revolution."

That is what he told us in 1989. I believe that his whole life is still telling us that today.

Hamba kahle, father and leader, our beloved comrade OR Tambo.

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