South African freedom fighter, and anti-apartheid icon Oliver Reginald Tambo (OR) was lauded by President Jacob Zuma during a reception at the 72nd Session of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) in New York on Wednesday.

“It is my honour to welcome you to this event today, as we commemorate the centenary anniversary of an illustrious son of South Africa and icon of our country’s liberation, Oliver Reginald Tambo,” said Zuma.

“In honour of Tambo who was born one hundred years ago, South Africa declared 2017, ‘the Year of O.R. Tambo’. This is in honour of a man who dedicated his life to the liberation, freedom and equal opportunity of all South Africans,” he said.

The South African Head of State added that it was appropriate that the celebration was taking place at the Headquarters of the United Nations because Tambo was instrumental in transforming South Africa into a free democratic, non-racial, free country through his mobilisation of international solidarity against apartheid.

Tambo served as president of the African National Congress (ANC) from 1967 to 1991.

Following the Sharpeville Massacre, on March 21, 1960, the liberation leader embarked on a “Mission in Exile” in order to gain international support for the South African liberation movement.

He mobilised international solidarity against apartheid and contributed to shaping the vision of a post-apartheid democratic South Africa.

“Over and above his responsibilities as head of the ANC’s diplomatic mission, he had to lead and manage the military aspects of our struggle, fundraising, the setting up of ANC offices around the world and the overall welfare of ANC cadres in exile,”Zuma explained.
However, in addition to his courage and military expertise, Tambo was also a master of diplomacy and a believer in the power of consensus and democracy.

“In 1963 and 1964, Tambo made a number of high profile speeches to present the ANC to the world, the most prominent being one made to the United Nations in October 1963, where he made a passionate plea for the release of political prisoners,” Zuma explained.

This speech inspired the United Nations Resolution 18 of 11 October, 1963 calling on the South African government to release all political prisoners.

Again on June 11, 1981, Tambo stood before the General Assembly and delivered a key message at the meeting of the United Nations Committee against apartheid where he urged, and called upon member states, to act with urgency against the unjust realities faced by the black people of South Africa under the apartheid regime.

“He also acknowledged the significant role of the United Nations and its Special Committee against Apartheid in support of the struggle for liberation,” stated Zuma.

“As the great father of our nation, President Nelson Mandela, said at the funeral of Tambo: ‘Oliver lived because he had surrendered his very being to the people. He lived because his very being embodied love, an idea, a hope, an aspiration, a vision. While he lived, our minds would never quite formulate the thought that this man is other than what the naked eye could see’.”

– By ANA