A tribute by his comrades to a true servant of the ANC

Title: Oliver Tambo Remembered

Title: Oliver Tambo Remembered

Book editor: Z Pallo Jordan

Publisher: Pan Macmillan

Reviewer: Eric Naki

This tribute to a true servant of the ANC will be launched at Johannesburg's Apartheid Museum this weekend.

Oliver Tambo's comrades, friends and former neighbours pay tribute to a gallant fighter in the book. They pour out their love to OR, his wife Adelaide and their children.

It is a collection of memories by ANC figures, lawyers, religious figures, artists, journalists, anti-apartheid activists, European and international politicians.

Imagine combining the works of the ANC's intellectual minds - Jordan and Thabo Mbeki and spicing it up with Frene Ginwala, Kader Asmal, Lindiwe Mabuza, Ronnie Kasrils, Wally Serote, George Bizos, Emeka Anyaoku, Peter Hain, Desmond Tutu and Gillian Slovo.

In relating Tambo's story, Mbeki tells his own. Mbeki was instructed by his father Govan Mbeki and Duma Nokwe to go into exile two-and-a half years after Tambo left for Lusaka at the instruction of Albert Luthuli, then ANC president.

Mbeki takes us through the formative stages of exile.

Many theorise that the ANC groomed Mbeki to lead the organisation and the country. This book gives us the evidence.

Not only OR, but all the ANC leaders including then imprisoned Nelson Mandela and Walter Sisulu insisted that Mbeki complete his university education.

Mbeki writes that Tambo taught him to understand leadership, including never to lie and never to make false and unrealistic promises.

"History will make its own judgment about whether or not we have fully honoured the continuing mission Oliver Tambo gave us in 1989 - to look after the ANC and make sure it succeeds," writes Mbeki.

Jordan relates OR's youth, his education at school and at Fort Hare University and how he founded the ANC Youth League together with Anton Lembede and others. He writes about OR's election as ANC president at the Morogoro ANC consultative conference in Tanzania in 1969, Sharpeville and his external missions to mobilise international support and other initiatives.

Jordan says OR ably managed the ANC as a broad movement and successfully united different forces.

"OR, perhaps better than many others, understood that it was not possible to suppress and silence the contradictions inherent in such a diverse movement. From 1947 until his death in 1993, OR was among the leading figures of the ANC.

"He has left an indelible mark in South African politics." Jordan says.

An easy read, the book has a short tribute by Sally Sampson, a close family friend.

Ronnie Kasrils says Tambo was "the glue that bound us together", had a "sense of mission" and "extraordinary discipline".

Mabuza talks about the ANC's external mission. She tells Tambo's story by interviewing Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, who describes OR as an "amazing inspiration to us all".

Baleka Mbete writes in a touching poem the ANCYL gave to Tambo in 1998: "You taught us to be upright, to work hard, to be proud in humility."

Sindiso Mfenyana describes Tambo as the "experienced leader", the "chorister", the "perfectionist", the "consummate diplomat", and the "orthodox Christian".

Thami Ntenteni, tells, among others, the story of Radio Freedom and how Tambo drove the staff from home and work daily because they had no transport for many months.

"Our debt to him is incalculable and we praise and thank God for His good and faithful servant," writes Desmond Tutu.

Want to know about the work of the ANC in exile and beyond? This is a book to read.