Message of Support from the Foreign Minister of the Republic of South Africa, Dr Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma delivered by S.A. High Commissioner to the United Kingdom and Ireland Lindiwe Mabuza at the Book Launch of “Oliver Tambo Remembered”, London, 16 October 2007

Ninety years after the birth of the late President of the African National Congress, Comrade O.R. Tambo, I am pleased that we are marking this occasion with the publication of a book about his life by those who knew him and by those who were inspired by him.

More than anyone else, O.R. Tambo knew the power of words and ideas. I think he would have welcomed our attempts to share the ideas he held dear - and that the liberation movement as a whole embraced - with the wider world. In the present context of globalization where the gap between rich and poor continues to widen, where inequalities persist and where global apartheid exists, his words will not be forgotten as a thing of the past, but will endure as part of the living legacy that speaks to the struggles of people every day still fighting for their rights.

The Chilean poet, Pablo Neruda, could have been writing about this book, when he said:

beautiful book,
little forest,
leaf after leaf…
building the human castle,
grief interwoven with firmness,
book passed from pocket to pocket…”

Oliver Tambo lives on through all the reminiscences that make up this book. His words live on, because when he spoke of freedom, he understood that he was “building the human castle”. He knew that it was not enough to champion the cause of one country, one continent. He believed that we had to stand side by side with all those people and nations world wide who were fighting for their freedom, for the right to live in peace, justice and equality.

It was this clarity of vision and purpose that enabled him to say with conviction, passion and determination that “we who fight for freedom fight also for peace, so that our children may grow up in a world of prosperity and international friendship.” For he believed that internationalism and solidarity were the foundations with which together we could all fashion a prosperous future together.

He fought against racism, sexism and other forms of discrimination. He pledged support for women’s emancipation. His was a human vision and energy striving to improve the human condition in the world.

Truly his contribution has been immense and indeed of epic proportions to the lives of those of us who were touched by his and to all freedom fighters and freedom-loving people in the struggle against apartheid and all forms of injustice and oppression. This is why in the book that is being launched today President Mbeki salutes Oliver Tambo as “a great giant who strode the globe like a colossus”.

President Thabo Mbeki has described him as “a scholar, an intellectual, a teacher, an immensely cultured person with no trace whatsoever of arrogance, of self-importance, a rare leader of people.” When Kwame Nkrumah spoke of the “African personality” it could have been O.R. Tambo that he was speaking about.

The title of each contribution in this book pays tribute to O.R. Tambo’s great humanity – he is embraced as a father figure who could bring out “the humanity in everyone”, “a fearless fighter and liberator” who instilled “a culture of service and sacrifice”, who “built bridges”.

When the Mandela statue was recently unveiled in Westminster, former President Nelson Mandela paid tribute to O.R. and recalled a time when they both walked through that very place, admiring the statues of great leaders and wondering if in the future they would also be represented there.

Indeed O.R. Tambo’s contribution has been monumental. The pages of this book are also testimony to O.R. Tambo’s great integrity and the genuine concern he felt towards others, especially the young comrades whom he took into his care. He knew well that it was the task of each generation to fulfil their mission. This book itself will serve to inspire generations to come.

I am pleased that today the hard work of our High Commissioner Lindiwe Mabuza has borne fruit. The publishers Macmillan and the editor, Dr Pallo Jordan, also deserve our praise for their sterling efforts in keeping the memory and the ideas of O.R. Tambo alive. Our greatest gratitude goes to all the contributors to this unique publication.

I am once more reminded of the words of Neruda, in his poem “Ode to the Book” when he says:

“We … explored the world.
We joined
in the earthly struggle.
What was our victory?
A book
filled with human connections,
teeming with life
With men, with tools,
A book
is our victory.”

Indeed as we continue to consolidate our efforts to build a better South Africa in a better Africa and in a better world, let this book celebrate our victories, honour OR Tambo’s legacy and also serve as a foundation stone with which we build a new egalitarian world – just like OR Tambo valued international solidarity.

Long live the spirit of O.R.!

Long live international solidarity!

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