On the Shoulders of a Giant: Lessons from the life of Oliver Tambo

The Oliver and Adelaide Tambo Foundation hosted the Oliver Tambo Centenary Memorial Lecture under the appropriate theme “On the Shoulders of a Giant” at the University of the Witwatersrand On 27 October 2017.

Former President Thabo Mbeki delivered the keynote address to a full-house made up of the Tambo family and friends, liberation struggle stalwarts, government and business leaders, students, and members of the media, among others. (Image: Supplied)

Phindi Maduna

“For the revolutionary movement, anniversaries cannot only celebrate the past. We must recall and acclaim our history, but more importantly, we must use the past to arm ourselves for the future; to learn lessons and to strengthen our resolve and commitment”

Oliver Reginald Tambo spoke these words at the meeting to observe the 60th anniversary of the South African Communist Party in London on 30 July 1981. On 27 October 2017, when the Oliver and Adelaide Tambo Foundation hosted the Oliver Tambo Centenary Memorial Lecture under the appropriate theme “On the Shoulders of a Giant” at the University of the Witwatersrand, the intention was to reflect on the past, draw lessons from it and arm ourselves for the future of South Africa.

Tambo‚ the longest-serving African National Congress President who died in 1993‚ would have been 100 years old on 27 October 2017. Brand South Africa was honoured to partner with the Oliver and Adelaide Tambo Foundation to celebrate the life of Tambo and his great contribution to the South African liberation struggle.

In closing, Mbeki said, “History will answer the question unequivocally whether we had the courage to live up to the extraordinary legacy which Oliver Tambo left behind!”

Former President Thabo Mbeki delivered the keynote address to a full-house made up of the Tambo family and friends, liberation struggle stalwarts, government and business leaders, students, and members of the media, among others.

He opened by saying “Today, October 27, 2017 our people, joined by the people of the rest of Africa and the world, stand up and say in unison – happy birthday our dear and respected Oliver Tambo, our beloved OR”. Tambo was a committed Pan-Africanist and this according to Mbeki, “helped further to entrench this outlook throughout the ranks of the ANC and contributed in no small measure to the development of the attitude among millions throughout our Continent that the struggle to defeat the apartheid system was as much ours as it was theirs.” Tambo is certainly respected world over for his human rights activism, internationalism, and futurism. There is so much that leaders young and old, across South Africa, Africa and the world can learn from the way that Tambo led the liberation struggle and united the international community against the apartheid government.

The audience listened attentively as Mbeki reflected on his relationship with Tambo and shared some of the of the lessons that can be taken from Tambo’s leadership style in order to move South Africa forward. He candidly emphasised the importance of taking lessons from those who came before us in order to continue to make progress in South Africa.

Tambo‚ the longest-serving African National Congress President who died in 1993‚ would have been 100 years old on 27 October 2017.

Mbeki said that he believed that the best way to honour Tambo as we mark the Centenary of his birth would be to live up to the example he has set by being loyal to the truth; encouraging a spirit of unity to achieve the goal of a better life for all; helping to ensure the full functioning of our country as a constitutional democracy; and, “reasserting in practical ways the principle and practice that we share a common destiny with our fellow Africans, including those in the African Diaspora.”

In closing, Mbeki said “History will answer the question unequivocally whether we had the courage to live up to the extraordinary legacy which Oliver Tambo left behind!”

It is while standing on the shoulders of a giant like Tambo, that South Africans and South African leaders can realise a future built on consistent perseverance and resilience; because South Africa’s tumultuous past and the manner in which it was overcome is a lesson that we cannot take for granted in the on-going exercise to build a better South Africa, Africa and world.

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