Tambo sacrificed his life because he knew apartheid was evil

Book: OR Tambo

Book: OR Tambo

Author: Sandi Baai

Publisher: Skotaville Books

Reviewer: Zenoyise Madikwa

Xa ebengafelanga amatyala am ngendiba ndithwala ukubethwa kwam. Literally translated: "If my Redeemer did not die for me I would have had to bear the burden of my sins."

When I read Oliver Reginald Kaizana Tambo's biography by Sandi Baai I was overwhelmed by this song of a Methodist Psalmist who praises the work of Calvary.

Born in Nkantolo village in Mbizana in the Transkei, like Jesus of Nazareth, OR Tambo lived and died for others. Though his was not a physical death it was death to self. He lived to serve until he died on April 24 1993 - a year before the birth of our democracy.

The writer unearths the trinity of the father of democracy as an acclaimed teacher, lawyer and a political giant who, like Jesus, remained humble to the very end. Of him, the writer says that his selfhood defines itself among other selves. You cannot write about Tambo and not touch on his ethos.

Baai traces Tambo's religiosity. He paints him as a believer whose whole life was influenced by Christianity. Tambo viewed apartheid as an evil system that was not of God. The writer also paints Tambo as a man who regarded education as a tool to liberate and empower ordinary people.

This well-researched and unapologetic tome tells a tale of a man who did not spare himself but fought for the liberation of the people who were oppressed in the land of their birth.

The Pondoland area is very religious and political. This has had an influence on other parts of the Transkei. Growing up in the Transkei I never understood why political elders opened and closed meetings with a prayer while the same people sang hymns cursing the oppressive government. After reading this book I gained insight into why this was.

The writer also explores rural sociology, touching on the Pondoland revolt and how it influenced the political life in the Transkei area. He also spices up the book by sprinkling it with the rich PAC history and its leadership, the tribal quarrels of exile within the ANC members, the nationalist and communist factions in exile and how Tambo managed these conflicts in foreign countries.

Baai traces Tambo's schooling, religious and ethnic presuppositions and his parental and ancestral background. This interesting and engaging book is not only a narrative but also a descriptive piece of work in which rural villagers participated in telling the tale of Tambo.

The book will be launched today at Exclusive Books in Killarney Mall.