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Poet Mongane Wally Serote's praise poem for OR Tambo born out of deep sorrow

FILE IMAGE: Mongane Wally Serote receinving Silver Order Of Ikhamanga, President Thabo Mbeki and Chancellor of National Orders Rev. Frank Chikane during the presentation of National Orders , the event was held at Union Building, Tshwane on the 21st September 2007.
FILE IMAGE: Mongane Wally Serote receinving Silver Order Of Ikhamanga, President Thabo Mbeki and Chancellor of National Orders Rev. Frank Chikane during the presentation of National Orders , the event was held at Union Building, Tshwane on the 21st September 2007.
Image: Elvis Ntombela

Mongane Wally Serote's latest work, a praise poem dedicated to the late ANC president and anti-apartheid icon Oliver Reginald Tambo, was born out of the deep sorrow the author felt at what he sees as a conscious and deliberate effort by some elements in the ANC to break South Africa down.

The legendary writer was speaking at the launch of the book, titled Sikhahlel' u - OR: A praise poem for Oliver Tambo, held at the Rosebank Exclusive Books on Tuesday.

On the night, the National Poet Laureate did not only present his stature as a renowned writer, but he spoke from his platform as an anti-apartheid struggle icon and a member of the ANC's Veterans League, following the recitation of the poem by director and theatre and arts activist Linda Ngele.

Linda Ngele, director and theatre and arts activist recited a poem from the book.
Linda Ngele, director and theatre and arts activist recited a poem from the book.
Image: Linda Kea Moreotsene

The 75-year-old said the 'destructive elements' within the ANC, which he refers to as 'the Black Cobra', spurred him into action after he had pondered on what Tambo would have felt about the present state of SA. That is how the work, which captures not only Serote's grief and tragedy, but also his immense hope for the country, came about.

"The past 10 years were a conscious, deliberate effort to break the country down. They must not succeed; those people who organised themselves to do that. We want to commit to that, but we know that we cannot do it alone. We want the nation behind us, so because of that, I had to explore my understanding and knowledge, my love for OR, who he was. To gather strength, to gather consciousness, to remind us where we come from, how whatever difficulties we encountered those days, we tackled head-on," Serote said.

Poet Mongane Wally Serote.
Poet Mongane Wally Serote.
Image: Linda Kea Moreotsene

"I don't know how to explain to our people just how much trouble our country is in, serious trouble. To the extent that, if we are not careful, we can get ourselves into even worse. Our duty, as members of our organisation is to really put our shoulders to the wheel, to try and talk to our people, to say, 'let us  save our country'. It cannot go the destruction way".

"South Africa would have used Tambo's astuteness as a statesman in these times," Serote said.

"OR mobilised millions of people, nationally and internationally to support our struggle. I was inspired by him, his character. One of the most important things about OR for me, was that he was very humane, he had a lot of love, especially for this country, for the continent. Everyone who met him left with the conviction of wanting to be a very responsible person, a leader," he said. 

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