DERIV-93_31-4-LeadershipThe O.R. Tambo District Municipality is named after the late stalwart of the African National Congress (ANC), Oliver Reginald Tambo, who was affectionately known as “OR”. He was born on 27th October 1917 in a rural town, Mbizana, in eastern Mpondoland in what was then, The Cape Province and now The Eastern Cape.At the age of seven he began his formal education at Ludeke Methodist School in the Mbizana District and completed his primary education at Holy Cross Mission. He then transferred to Johannesburg to attend St Peters College, in Rossettenville, where he completed his high school education.

From St Peters, Tambo went to study at the University College of Fort Hare, near Alice, where he obtained his Bachelor of Science Degree in 1941. It was at Fort Hare that he first became involved in the politics. He led a student class boycott in support of a demand to form a democratically elected Student’s Representative Council. As a consequence he was expelled from Fort Hare and was thus unable to complete his Bachelor of Science honours degree.

In 1942, he returned to St Peters College as a science and mathematics teacher. At St Peters he was to teach many who later were to, play prominent roles in the ANC. Among these were Duma Nokwe who became the first black South African Advocate of the Supreme Court and a Secretary-General of the ANC.

It was while he was in Johannesburg that Tambo threw himself body and soul into the ANC. He was among the founding members of the ANC Youth League (ANC YL) in 1944 and became its first National Secretary. He was elected President of the Transvaal ANCYL in 1948 and national vice-president in 1949.

In the ANCYL, Tambo teamed up with Walter Sisulu, Nelson Mandela, Ashby Mda, Anton Lembede, Dr William Nkomo, Dr C.M.Majombozi and others to bring a bold, new spirit of militancy into the post-war ANC. In 1946 Tambo was elected onto the Transvaal Executive of the ANC. In 1948 he, together with Walter Sisulu were elected onto the National Executive Committee. This was of great significance to the ANCYL’s efforts to change the ANC.

In 1955 Oliver Tambo was appointed as Secretary General of the ANC, after Walter Sisulu was banned in terms of the Suppression of Communism Act and ordered to resign his post. His appointment was ratified by the annual conference.

In 1958, Oliver Tambo left the post of Secretary General to become the Deputy President of the ANC.

In 1967, after the death of ANC President General Chief Albert J. Luthuli, Tambo became Acting president until his appointment to the Presidency was approved by the Morogoro Conference in 1969.

In 1985 Tambo was re-elected ANC President at the Kabwe Conference. In that capacity he served also as the Head of the Politico-Military Council (PMC) of the ANC, and as Commander in Chief of Umkhonto we Sizwe.

Among black South African leaders, Oliver Tambo was probably the most highly respected on the African continent, in Europe, Asia and the Americas. During his stewardship of the ANC he raised its international prestige and status to that of an alternative to the Pretoria Government. He was received with the protocol reserved for Heads of State in many parts of the world.

During his years in the ANC, Oliver Tambo played a major role in the growth and development of the movement and its policies. He was among the generation of African nationalist leaders who emerged after the Second World War who were instrumental in the transformation of the ANC from a liberal-constitutionalist organisation into a radical national liberation movement.

In 1989 Oliver Tambo suffered a stroke, and underwent extensive medical treatment. He returned to South Africa in 1991, after over three decades in exile. At the ANC’s first legal national conference inside South Africa, held in Durban in July 1991, Tambo was elected National Chairperson of the ANC. He was also chairperson of the ANC’s Emancipation Commission.

Oliver Reginald Tambo died from a stroke at 3.10am on 24 April, 1993