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OR Tambo Memorial Lecture delivered by President Jacob Zuma

25 October 2015, Port Elizabeth

ANC provincial chairperson, Members of the ANC NEC,
Provincial Leadership of the ANC,
Leadership of the Alliance partners,
Comrades and friends,

We greet you all, molweni, good evening, goeie naand,

A few days after the Sharpeville Massacre in 1960, the ANCdispatched its Deputy President, Comrade Oliver Reginald Tambo to go and galvanize international support for the anti-apartheid struggle.

He was to set foot on the land of his birth again only three decades later.

During October each year, the ANC celebrates the life of this outstanding South African and selfless fighter for justice, freedom, human rights and equality, who sacrificed so much for his country.

Oliver Reginald Kaizana Tambo was, still is and will always be the pride of the ANC.

He was born on 27 October 1917 in Mbizana. He was among the founding members of the ANC Youth League in 1944, and became its first national Secretary.

Together with Comrades Walter Sisulu, Nelson Mandela, Ashby Mda, Anton Lembede, Dr William Nkomo, Dr C.M. Majombozi and others - they were instrumental in the transformation of the ANC.

They infused the organisation with new ideas and changed it to become a progressive and potent tool in the hands of our people in the struggle for liberation.

President Tambo bears the distinction of having been the longest serving President of the ANC. When Chief Luthuli died, he became acting President for a long period of time until he was formally elected to the position by the NEC at the time.

He led the organisation during one of the most difficult and trying moments of the liberation struggle.

The ANC had been banned and had gone underground. He was given the task of establishing the external mission of the ANC, which had declared an armed struggle in 1961.

The enemy dealt a heavy blow to our movement in 1963. Its core leaders were arrested and later sentenced to life imprisonment, among them the Rivonia Trialists.

The then President-General, Chief Albert Luthuli, was confined to Groutville in KZN under terrible restrictions and banning orders.

Provincial leadership as well as regional and small units of MK and underground structures were also dealt a heavy blow through detentions.

Things had to change. The external mission had to become the main centre of the movement. And indeed, that happened.

President Tambo became the glue that held the many facets of the ANC together during that difficult period. He became a capable pastor to all the strands of the ANC broad church.

He was able to do this because of his character. He was disciplined and highly principled.

He was a humble servant of the people, an empowering leader and democrat. He was a man of integrity, a persuader and a skilled diplomat. He had the ability to give and also take advice and draw strength from others.

President Tambo was very mindful of the rights of women.

He commissioned a Code of Conduct to ensure that women's rights were respected and upheld by all in the organisation.

These qualities were demonstrated in various ways as he built the movement and its cadres, thus contributing to some of its tried and tested traditions and character.

It is more from him that we learned to operate as a collective. The discipline of the collective remains a fundamental trait of disciplined cadres of the ANC.

It was also under his leadership that the ANC developed a culture of taking its decisions through consensus.

He was an also exceptionally good listener. Many of those who worked with him in exile can attest to this notion that OR had a capacity to listen to all points of views before he could take any critical decision.

Hence the meetings of the National Executive Committee ran for a week. He also believed passionately in building leadership and capacity within the ANC.

Many of those who became leaders of the ANC in the post-liberation period were in the main personally groomed and developed by him.

It was his leadership style as well that made a success of the consultative Morogoro Conference of 1969, which symbolised the ANC's ability to transcend divisive tendencies.

The conference also symbolised the triumph of non-racialism as the key principle of the organisation and the Alliance.

It was also President Tambo's force of example which calmed tempers in the camps when disputes about basic necessities, discontent with some leaders and ill-advised eagerness to go back to South Africa to fight surfaced.

The leadership that he provided to Umkhonto Wesizwe as commander in chief of the people's army was inspiring to many young freedom fighters.

In early 1967, when the Revolutionary Council decided on the first military campaign to South Africa, the Wankie Campaign, Oliver Tambo accompanied the fighters right down to the Zambian bank of the Zambezi River, accompanied by Thomas Nkobi.

This gesture demonstrated support and more profoundly that he was one of them.

At every stage of our Movement, his hand could be detected.

Throughout all the critical decades from the 60s, 70s, 80s to our return home in 1990, President Tambo worked tirelessly in the pursuit of freedom.

On 8 January 1985, he delivered his most dramatic speech calling on people to make the country ungovernable and apartheid unworkable, following the July 1985 State of Emergency.

When the time came to engage the enemy, in President Tambo we were fortunate to have a leader who was able to chart the way forward towards a negotiated settlement.

At that time, many were still finding it difficult to accept that there would be no dramatic seizure of power.

He understood at the time that the apartheid regime was irreversibly cornered by the forces of liberation led by the ANC.

He sent Comrade Thabo Mbeki and I to initiate a dialogue with the oppressors and led the ANC capably in key processes that led South Africa to negotiations and the transition to freedom.

Comrades

Another key inheritance from President Tambo to the South African nation was his internationalism which enabled us to sharpen the international pillar of our struggle.

The international campaign to release President Mandela and other political prisoners, the campaign for sanctions against apartheid South Africa and the creation of an understanding of South Africa under apartheid, were all skilfully executed under his leadership.

His skilful diplomatic skills also led to the recognition of the ANC by the Organisation for African Unity and the United Nations.

The declaration of apartheid as a crime against humanity was due to his tireless leadership of the international pillar of our struggle.

Assisted by African governments, President Tambo established ANC missions in Egypt, Ghana, Morocco and in London. From these small beginnings, under his stewardship, the ANC acquired missions in a total of 27 countries by 1990.

Through President OR, the anti-Apartheid Movement also flourished and became one of the greatest multi-class, multi-religious, international solidarity movements ever seen in history.

We cultivated relations with many countries in the Socialist bloc, the Nordic bloc and the Non-Aligned Movement who became our strong partners in the struggle against apartheid colonialism.

Today South Africa is a new nation, founded on the fundamental principles of human dignity, democracy and equal rights for all.

As we celebrate his life, we know that President Tambo would not be satisfied merely with us having achieved freedom and democracy.

Indeed we have been working hard to destroy the legacy of apartheid in the past 21 years.

At a political level, we have succeeded to create a society premised on the principles outlined in the Freedom Charter.

We have a government based on the will of the people, elected every five years through a national democratic election.

The country's Constitution boasts a Bill of Rights that enshrines various freedoms and rights.

The ANC government works closely with social partners such as business, religious leaders, labour and the community sector. These networks consolidate our participatory democracy.

At the level of the delivery of basic services, water, electricity, roads, houses, clinics and other basic services have been extended to millions of people since 1994.

We have made progress in various other areas. On health care we have turned around one of our weakest points previously, the fight against HIV and AIDS.

We have put more people on treatment than ever before thus improving life expectancy. One of our greatest success stories is the remarkable 50 percent reduction in mother-to-child transmission of HIV.

However, more people are still waiting and our task is to extend these services to more people each year.

The ANC has good plans and policies to enable us to move forward, both in the short and long term.

We have through the ANC government produced an over-arching National Development Plan which outlines our vision of dealing with inequalities, social injustice, and the developmental challenges of our society.

But work continues to transform our country and to achieve the national democratic society that is the vision of the ANC - a united, democratic, non-racial, non-sexist and prosperous society.

To achieve this society we need a strong ANC. President OR would call for unity in the ANC so that it can be equal to the challenges of our times.

He would urge all of us to pursue the unity of the Revolutionary Alliance. It is President Tambo who reminded us eloquently of the need for the unity of the Alliance.

He said at the celebrations of the 60th Anniversary of the SACP more than 30 years ago;

"Ours is not merely a paper Alliance, created at conference tables and formalised through the signing of documents and representing only an agreement of leaders. Our Alliance is a living organism that has grown out of struggle''.

He would require of us to be steadfast on principle and to display revolutionary discipline.

He would remind us that our responsibility is to give our people hope and direction during the most difficult periods.

Most importantly, he would urge us to continue with the fundamental transformation of our country and to work for economic freedom more vigorously now that political freedom has been achieved.

This includes our five priorities - education, health, the fight against crime and corruption, rural development and land reform and creating decent work.

At the 2007 52nd national conference of the ANC in Polokwane, the movement resolved that education and health must be prioritised as the core elements of social transformation.

The Polokwane ANC resolution on education also states categorically that the movement should progressively introduce free education for the poor until undergraduate level.

The message from the students that were marching in the past week is therefore in line with ANC policy.

That is why the ANC came out in full support of the student protests. The Progressive Youth Alliance provided sound and impressive leadership to the campaign.

I met with presidents of student representative councils as well as vice-chancellors and chairpersons of university councils to discuss the issues raised during the anti-fee increments campaign.

As announced, the work of the Presidential Task Team on Higher Education will be expanded so that it looks at more than just high fees but also broader transformation issues.

As we seek solutions, we will also look at studies that have been done on the question of free education such as that of Professor Derrick Swartz, the Vice Chancellor of the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University.

Some of the issues raised include the need to review the autonomy of universities.

The view is that there must be a difference between the autonomy of universities and academic freedom.

Among other issues, the student leaders also asked for an end to financial and academic exclusion, for an end to racism andfor the needs of students such as accommodation to be attended to.

We thank all students who adhered to the constitution of the Republic by marching and gathering peacefully. The right to assemble, protest and express ourselves is guaranteed in the constitution of the Republic.

There is no need to resort to violence including the destruction of property when exercising this right.

Violence of the nature seen outside the Union Buildings and as well as in the parliamentary precinct is unacceptable and undermines the campaign which, as we said, seeks action that is in line with ANC policy.

We look forward to working with the universities including especially student leadership as we address the transformation issues and build universities that would reflect the needs of a non-racial, non-sexist developmental state.

Comrades,

The ANC remains unwavering in its commitment to build a society free of the triple challenges of poverty, inequality and unemployment.

We will continue to invest in our youth and to support them in their development and growth, as they are the future of our country. We will continue the quest for economic freedom, so that all the developmental goals of our country are achieved.

For as long as there are people who still live in shacks, children who being taught in mud schools, families with no access to quality health care and children who go to bed hungry, youth with no money to study beyond matric, theAfrican National Congress will never rest.

Comrades and friends,

President Tambo lived under constant pressure and stress, which at times affected his health. Given the demands of his position, he had little time to recuperate from illness.

He suffered the first stroke in 1989. In April 1993 he passed on, so close to seeing the achievement of his dream of a free, non-racial and democratic South Africa.

At his funeral in 1993, a distraught President Nelson Mandela stated; "Oliver Tambo has not died because the ideals of freedom, human dignity and a colour-blind respect for every individual cannot perish".

We have one of our most important gateways, the OR Tambo International airport named after him and many other institutions and localities have landmarks named after him.

But President Tambo's legacy lives beyond that. It is in the blood, the heart and soul of the ANC.

It is manifest in our daily endeavours to create a non-racial, non-sexist, democratic and prosperous South Africa.

And for that legacy, we shall be eternally grateful to President Oliver Reginald Tambo.

I thank you.

Amandla!