Chief Mandla Mandela says Oliver Reginald Tambo played a significant role in his life including buying him his first suit at the age of 13.
Mandla is the eldest grandson of late former president Nelson Mandela, Tambo’s longtime friend and comrade.
Speaking to City Press following the main celebrations of OR Tambo’s 100 years celebration in his birthplace of Nkantolo in Mbizana, the Mvezo chief said he was privileged to have had personal encounter with OR Tambo, from whom he had learnt a great deal.
“I am very grateful to have met and to have been in his hands. I met him at the tender age of 13 in England when I was on my way to address the Parliament of France and to receive an award on behalf of my grandfather. I was welcomed by ubawo uTambo. He was the one who bought me my first suit so that I could go there looking good and get the award on behalf of Madiba. So, I am very grateful as this generation of the Mandelas to have been educated and groomed by ubawo uTambo,” Mandla said.
The Mvezo chief said the relationship between his grandfather and Tambo had been that of brotherhood and mutual respect.
He recalled how Madiba would refer to Tambo as uMpondo, in reference to his roots as a descendent of the AmaMpondo tribe from Mbizana.
“This shows the good relations between AmaMpondo and AbaThembu. More importantly, these two leaders met at an institution of higher learning [University of Fort Hare] where they were dedicated to be scholars of that generation. They established the Mandela and Tambo Attorneys together and to serve our people in an oppressive regime. But for us, ubawo uTambo has been the man in the forefront of the armed struggle and the man that Madiba, Walter Sisulu and Govan Mbeki looked to because even if they were imprisoned and silenced their voices were heard externally and abroad through the work of comrade OR Tambo,” said Mandla.
The Mvezo chief who took out his baby boy, Mntanenkosi Mandela Ikraam Mandela, in public for the first time, said this was a significant moment for his son as the next generation of the Mandelas.
“We came all out as the royal family. Being the next generation of this royal family, he [Mandla’s son] could not miss such an occasion. These are the legacies and stories that should be entrenched in his memory, that he was part of such a chapter in life,” said Mandla, who was accompanied by his wife, Rabia Nosekeni, his mother Nolusapho, and family elder Napilisi.
Many leaders also praised Tambo in separate interviews with City Press for the role he played in the struggle for liberation in the country.
Eastern Cape Premier Phumulo Masualle paid tribute to Tambo for his humility and determination to succeed in the face of adversity.
“I think this is the spirit that we must take as the youth of today. All the challenges that we have should not deter us. We should be determined, resolve to succeed because Tambo’s lifetime story is the story of success in the midst of difficulties,” Masualle said.
ANC treasurer-general Zweli Mkhize said OR Tambo’s life would remain an inspiration for all young people.
“He was part of a group of young people who changed the approach to the struggle by bringing in more militancy and energy. I think it is important to say to the youth they must join in large numbers the ANC but as we go to the national conference they need to participate as much as possible because we need young leaders to be part of the leadership of the organisation,” he said.
Oscar Mabuyane, Eastern Cape ANC provincial chairperson, said Tambo was not about only the people of Nkantolo and Eastern Cape but about the people of South Africa and Africa as a whole.
“Any positive change in people’s lives, wherever they are, would put a smile on his face. The only thing that would have made Tambo happy would be to see us working hard to unite the ANC that he has bequeathed to us solid. He knew that it was only a united ANC that would be able to speed up the process of changing people’s lives. So we must work very hard if we want to celebrate his life to do what OR Tambo was living for. We must emulate the values and principles that characterised his life,” Mabuyane said.
Meanwhile, thousands braved the chilly weather on Friday to celebrate the longest-serving president of the ANC.
Tambo died on the eve of democracy on April 24 1993 as a result of a stroke at the age of 75.
His birthplace of Nkantolo saw thousands coming from different walks of life to gather at the small village to celebrate him under the theme “OR Tambo, life and legacy”.
Five large marquees were erected at the grounds of the Nkantolo Technical High School, with both President Jacob Zuma and his deputy, Cyril Ramaphosa, ministers, deputy ministers, traditional leaders, MPLs and MPs, the clergy and businesspeople all part of the historic event.
Zuma, reading from a prepared speech, described Tambo as an illustrious leader for the struggle for the liberation of the people of South Africa, a father and national hero.
“As a boy growing up in the shadows of Engeli mountains, OR Tambo herded cattle and learnt the ways of his people. He learnt the values of Ubuntu and communal living. He was deeply moved by the experience of the living conditions and political life of his community, near and far,” Zuma said.