Windhoek-The Speaker of the National Assembly, Prof Peter Katjavivi, has described late South African struggle stalwart Oliver Tambo as a selfless giant of the African revolution who contributed immensely to the liberation of the African continent.
Katjavivi paid tribute to Tambo while moderating a panel discussion that looked at the life of this towering figure of the South African liberation struggle. The event also marked South African Heritage Day that commemorated the centenary of Tambo’s birth.
Born in 1917, Tambo would have been 100 years old this year.
Katjavivi, who had also earlier eulogized the fallen hero in parliament prior to the panel discussion, noted that Tambo, apart from being a pan-Africanist, was a proactive and tactical leader whose influence in the African National Congress (ANC) changed the course of the liberation struggle.
“He was a key proponent of a more proactive approach to the struggle against apartheid, which saw the ANC move away from non-violent protests and engage in armed struggle, targeting strategic sites. Tambo played an outstanding role in the liberation of the African continent,” noted Katjavivi.
Among his many selfless gestures, many speakers recalled, was when Tambo flew to Namibia at the invitation of Namibian freedom fighters to seek justice for innocent Namibians that were massacred in 1959 during an uprising against their forced removal from what was known as the Old Location, modern day Hochland Park, to Katutura.
Tambo was a qualified lawyer who pledged to offer his services for free. However, he was barred from entry into the country by the minority apartheid regime.
Among the many leaders who were present to receive him at the time were the late David Hosea Meroro, a giant figure in the Namibian struggle who was born the same year.
Katjavivi’s own personal encounter with Tambo was in 1962 when he arrived in exile in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.
“I was with two South African comrades when we were received by Oliver Tambo together with the ANC chief representative. I remember him as a committed and accessible leader who cultivated personal relationships with people he knew and always remembered people’s names. He was a remarkable man devoted to the cause,” recalled Katjavivi. South African Minister of Communications, Ayanda Dlodlo, noted that South Africa and Namibia share a common history and implored the two countries to uphold the ideals of peace, freedom, Africanism and its cultures that Tambo stood for.
“We all inspired each other during the struggle because we had a common enemy. Tambo loved Africa and its culture. This is why today we are celebrating Heritage Day. We also need to have respect for dignity and sovereignty. When we look at what is happening in Western Sahara and Palestine, we have an obligation as Africans to speak out against these atrocities at public platforms. These are ideals that Tambo stood for,” said Dlodlo.
Dlodlo cautioned against corruption, noting that it derails efforts to transform the African continent.
“Why should there be corruption to the scale it is? Why do we call each other liberators if we keep snatching the little we have?” Dlodlo stated rhetorically.
Vice-President Dr Nickey Iyambo noted at the event that Namibia recognised Tambo’s selflessness and commitment to Africa’s self-determination through a posthumous award in 2010.
The many other speakers at the event that extolled the fallen icon included former Speaker of the National Assembly, Dr Theo-Ben Gurirab, High Commissioner of South Africa to Namibia, Mavivi Myakayaka Manzini, and High Commissioner of South Africa to Zambia, Sikose Miji.
Oliver Tambo died from a stroke in 1993, aged 75.
• George Sanzila is chief information officer in the Division Research, Information, Publications and Editorial Services at the National Assembly.