In a bold speech to honour the memory of OR Tambo, former president Thabo Mbeki delivered a fiery criticism of the ANC, saying the party has failed its own heroes.
Friday marks OR Tambo’s centenary birthday in what has been declared the ‘Year of OR Tambo’ by the South African government under the theme, “Life and Legacy of Mr OR Tambo”.
OR Tambo was one of the founding members of the ANC youth league in 1943, alongside Nelson Mandela and Walter Sisulu and he served as president of the ANC from 1969 to 1991, making him the longest serving president.
To commemorate Tambo’s life and legacy on October 27, the University of Witwatersrand hosted a lecture given by Mbeki. And Mbeki took the opportunity to join a chorus of voices that have criticised the party under Zuma’s leadership.
“We are at a time of great stress”, said the former president.
He continued:“It is a critical time in the ANC’s history” where the party faces “a third threat of extinction”.
Allegations of corruption aren’t new to the party, Mbeki reminded his audience as he recounted the near destruction of the ANC in the 1940s and 1960s. The former president’s warning seemed to be that history is on the verge of repeating itself.
In the 1940s, Mbeki said, corruption in the ANC and “self-serving leaders almost led to the organisation’s disappearance”.
It was in the 1940s that OR Tambo began playing a key role in the movement as a member of the African National Congress Youth League (ANCYL).
The subsequent strength and unity of the ANC in the 1960s led the apartheid government to become increasingly fearful of the party and other liberation movements.
The ANC, as well as other anti-apartheid organisations, was banned in South Africa. In yet another period of danger to its existence, Mbeki regaled how the party relied on mass struggle, international solidarity and its own underground movement to survive.
Mbeki noted how Tambo was a key tactician and said the end of apartheid would have been impossible without him.
“OR Tambo is the father of South Africa’s democracy,” he said.
Mbeki highlighted Tambo’s principled character, his honesty and intellect as a model for South Africans, and in particular genuine ANC members.
To move forward, Mbeki has encouraged ANC members to “go against the entrenched rapacious and corrupt values” which, he said, have become the norm in the ANC since 2007 – the year that Zuma was elected ANC president.
OR Tambo was the longest serving ANC president and he founded the ANC Youth League alongside Nelson Mandela. After 50 years in politics, Tambo died in 1993, a year shy of witnessing South Africa transition into democracy.
Oliver, Oliver mfo ka Tambo thina sigxothiwe ekhaya.
(Oliver, Oliver son of Tambo, we have been expelled from our home)
(We will struggle (fight). We will struggle)