WATCH: OR Tambo in his own words


OR Tambo.

OR Tambo.

JOHANNESBURG - It has been one hundred years since the birth of struggle icon Oliver Reginald (OR) Tambo.

Tambo served as president of the ANC from 1967 to 1991.

In an interview in 1985, Tambo spoke about the opportunity Britain had to end apartheid, saying the English had created the legacy of racialism in South Africa.

He also spoke of his entry into politics, being persecuted by the police (including being arrested the day before getting married), and the decision to move away from non-violent resistance to the apartheid regime.

Speaking about the experiences of Black, Indian and Coloured people in South Africa, he said none could escape “the feeling that they were not human.”

WATCH: Oliver Tambo coined

At the time of the interview, Tambo believed the end of apartheid was in sight but he called on the international community to impose sanctions on South Africa to prevent bloodshed. He said the only alternative was an armed struggle.

Tambo said: “I think the end is in sight, but between now and the end that is in sight, there is going to be a lot of trouble in South Africa. The conflict is simply bound to escalate, because not enough is yet being done internationally.”

He added that “it could become a blood bath, we must be prepared for it. If conflict escalates and keeps escalating, no one can say how far it will go.”

Tambo said he expected to be killed by the apartheid regime, but that there was no point worrying about it.

In 1991, after the release of Nelson Mandela, Tambo returned to South Africa from exile.


In an interview with ABC News Nightline in 1986, Tambo again appealed to the international community to intervene despite resistance from especially the West. 

When pushed on the topic of whether the ANC would target foreign-owned companies in their struggle, he said: “If you associate yourself too closely with the enemy, don’t blame anybody if people conclude you are part of the enemy.”

In 1979, Tambo warned about an escalation of violence in South Africa during a press conference in Lusaka, saying it was going to be “violent and hectic”.

Tambo died in 1993 after suffering a stroke, just a few days after Chris Hani&39;s assassination. He died one year before the 1994 general election in which Nelson Mandela became the first democratically-elected president of South Africa.

The ANC commemorated the year of 2017 as the Year of OR Tambo.

The ruling party heads into a hotly-contested and increasingly messy leadership elective conference in December.

READ: Leadership in question