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Police raid catapulted her into politics at the age of 10

By unknown | Feb 02, 2007 | COMMENTS [ 0 ]

Adelaide Frances Tambo's political life started at the tender and impressionable age of 10 after a raid by the police.

Adelaide Frances Tambo's political life started at the tender and impressionable age of 10 after a raid by the police.

A police officer had been killed in a riot at Top location in Vereeniging and Adelaide's ailing 82-year-old grandfather was among those arrested and taken to the Vereeniging town square.

There the old man collapsed and the young girl sat with him until he regained consciousness.

The way in which the young white policemen pushed her grandfather around, and their calling him "boy", steeled her to to fight the apartheid authorities until the end.

This was in 1939, when she was a pupil at St Thomas's Practising School, a primary school in Johannesburg.

In 1944 she started to work for the ANC as a courier while attending Orlando High School.

She had joined the school's debating society at a time when DFMalan was entrenching apartheid as government policy - a heated issue for student debates.

At 18, Adelaide joined the ANC Youth League and was elected chairman of its George Goch branch. One of her duties was to open branches of the league elsewhere in the Transvaal.

Later, as a student nurse at Pretoria General Hospital, she started a branch of the league with the help of Sheila Musi, Mildred Kuzwayo and Nonhle Zokwe.

She met Oliver Tambo at a meeting of the Eastern Native Township (George Goch) branch of the ANC, and the two were married in December 1956, during the notorious Treason Trial.

They were aware that either of them could be arrested at any time and discussed the consequences their political involvement might have for their children.

They decided that one of them would have to work full-time as a political activist while the other worked part-time and took full control of all family matters, including supporting the old people of both families.

Oliver and Adelaide Tambo were asked by the ANC to leave South Africa in 1960 to carry on the work of the organisation overseas. Adelaide resumed her work as a courier - this time for her husband.

Based in London until the unbanning of all political parties in South Africa, Adelaide became a founder member of the Afro-Asian Solidarity Movement and of the Pan-African Women's Organisation.

She helped to identify and financially help families whose children had left South Africa after the 1976 uprisings.

She had three children and represented the ANC in parliament.

Adelaide worked valiantly for people in old-age homes. - Sowetan Reporters


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