Oliver Reginald Tambo Edit Profile
Educated at Ludeke Methodist Mission School from 1924 to 1929, at the Anglican Holy Cross Mission School at Flagstaff, 50 miles south of Bizana, from 1929 to 1933, then at St Peter’s Secondary School, Johannesburg.
In 1938 he entered Fort Hare University College, graduating with a BSc degree in 1941. He went on to study for an education diploma at Fort Hare but was sent down for being a ringleader in a student protest one month before his examinations. After getting a teaching job at his old school, St Peter’s, he returned after a year to take his education diploma.
While teaching he took a correspondence course in law, purely out of academic interest with no real intention of ever practising it. But he became so absorbed in law that he left teaching in 1947 and became articled to a solicitor’s firm. In 1952 he became a registered attorney and established the first African legal firm with Nelson Mandella.
Politically, his career dates back to 1944 as one of the pioneers of the ANC Youth League. In 1945 he was appointed vice-president of the Youth
League and in 1949 he was elected to the ANC executive. In 1954 he had his first brush with the police resulting in a ban from attending any public meeting for two years. In 1955 he was appointed secretary-general of the ANC. In December 1956 he was arrested on treason charges but he was discharged in 1957.
Under a new party constitution drawn up in 1958 he was appointed to the new office of deputy-president. In late 1959 when it was realised that the ANC was about to be banned and its leaders arrested the executive decided that he should leave the country and carry on the struggle abroad. On March 28, 1960 seven days after the Sharpe-ville shootings he escaped and made his way via Botswana and Ghana to London. He went to the UN and several friendly countries appealing for support against apartheid.
In 1965 he set up provisional headquarters at Morogoro, 115 miles west of Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, but he has spent at least six months of each year since then on his travels doing propa¬ganda work. After the death of Chief Luthuli, the ANC president, on July 21, 1967, he was the natural successor and became acting president. He has regularly attended OAU and UN meetings and visited many countries in East and West including the Soviet Union in August 1970 for the Lenin centenary celebrations. In April 1973 he made a statement to the UN committee on apartheid and also participated in the anti-apartheid conference at Oslo, Norway.
A studious, soft-voiced politician whose career has developed in five-year cycles right up to the establishment of an exile headquarters in Tanzania five years after escaping from South Africa. A man of immense patience and tolerance, a moderate politician convinced that violence is inevitable if the ANC aim of a “united democratic South Africa” is to be achieved.