Hosted By The British High Commissioner To South Africa
The Oliver And Adelaide Tambo Foundation
And The Trevor Huddleston Cr Memorial Centre
Message Of Support By
Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi Mp
President Of The Inkatha Freedom Party
I am delighted by the opportunity to spend time reflecting on the life and friendships of Mr Oliver Reginald Tambo. As we listen to the wonderful recollections, I am reminded of our own long association, before he went into exile and while he led the ANC’s mission in London.
I was privileged to know Mr Tambo from a young age. While studying at his alma mater, the University of Fort Hare, I joined the ANC Youth League which he and others had founded. After I graduated, I worked closely with the leaders of the ANC, including Inkosi Albert Luthuli, who was my mentor, and Mr Nelson Mandela. When the ANC and other political organizations were banned in 1960, I continued working with Mr Tambo. We made every effort to meet regularly.
When I attended the Anglican Congress in Toronto, Canada, in 1963, I flew via London. Mrs Adelaide Tambo ‘phoned her husband in Lusaka and he flew to London especially to meet with me. Upon my return, my passport was immediately confiscated. It was 9 years before I got it back! But when they finally gave it back to me, I met with Mr Tambo again, in London, Nairobi, Mangoche in Malawi, Lagos and Stockholm; even though doing so endangered my life in South Africa.
The Tambos were also close friends with my sister, Morgina Dotwana, and her husband, who was a doctor in Daveyton, near Wattville where the Tambos lived. As they were both from the Eastern Cape, a strong friendship developed, particularly between Morgina and Adelaide, who were both nurses. Mrs Adelaide Tambo never lived in her husband’s shadow. She was a remarkable woman in her own right.
While Inkosi Luthuli was staying with the Tambos, he and Mr Oliver Tambo approached my sister, asking her to convey their advice to me. They requested that I take up the leadership of KwaZulu if I was elected. In that way, we could undermine apartheid from within. Mr Cleopas Nsibande, the interim leader of the ANC in Gauteng, was with them at the time.
Many years later, during the unveiling of Mr Tambo’s tombstone in 1998, Mr Nsibande recounted this in the presence of President Mandela, ANC Ministers and leaders of the ANC. They knew it was true. But it was the first time that the ANC had publically acknowledged that my role in the liberation struggle, as Chief Minister of KwaZulu, had been moulded and approved by the leadership of the ANC. That fact had deliberately been hidden for almost two decades.
I recount this now because my friendship with Mr Tambo became hidden under so much propaganda that I am often still faced with lies and attacks on my character.
A spokesperson for the SACP, for instance, used the book “Oliver Tambo Speaks” to vilify me in the media. The book contains an extract from the Political Report of the NEC to the National Consultative Conference in Lusaka, in June 1985, in which Tambo laments that the Inkatha I built was “far removed” from the kind of organisation they had envisioned. This was, of course, at the height of the ANC’s campaign to vilify me after the ideological split between our parties in October 1979, over an armed struggle and international sanctions.
Extracts from his earlier speeches published in the book show a quite different viewpoint. In his New Year’s Address to the ANC External Mission, for instance, in 1971, Tambo said that KwaZulu had become, and I quote, “the battleground of freedom, where the true representatives of the people are fighting the racists and rejecting their regime.”
It was only in 1979 that the propaganda machine started. But it pushed out an enormous campaign against me. Mandela actually admitted to this in 2002 when he said, “We have used every ammunition to destroy [Buthelezi], but we failed. And he is still there. He is a formidable survivor. We cannot ignore him.”
Thanks God, time has revealed the truth about the past for those willing to hear it. Thus, in October 2011, for instance, I was invited by the Umkhonto we Sizwe Military Veterans’ Association to celebrate the life of Mr Oliver Tambo, which I willingly did.
Tonight, I willingly celebrate him again, for I remember our friendship and I admire the remarkable leadership he provided to our liberation struggle.