Tambo, Oliver Reginald

▪ 1994

      South African political activist (b. Oct. 27, 1917, Bizana, South Africa—d. April 24, 1993, Johannesburg, South Africa), directed the activities of the black nationalist African National Congress (ANC) from exile for 30 years (1960-90); he served as ANC president general from 1969 until 1991, when he was succeeded by his college friend and former law partner, Nelson Mandela. Tambo was born to peasant farmers of the Pondo tribe in a small Transkei village. He attended St. Peter's Secondary School in Johannesburg, received a scholarship to the University College of Fort Hare (B.Sc., 1941), and returned to St. Peter's to teach. In 1943 he joined the ANC, and the next year he and Mandela founded the ANC Youth League. The two young men studied law together, and in 1952 they opened a joint legal practice. Tambo rose rapidly in the ANC; he was a member of the ANC executive council from 1949, secretary-general (1955-58), and deputy president general (1958-69). He was arrested (1956) for treason, released (1957), and then banned (1959) for five years, but in 1960, when word leaked out that the ANC was to be banned, he was able to leave the country. With Mandela and others imprisoned, leadership fell to Tambo. He devoted the next 30 years to publicizing the black nationalist cause, promoting the international boycott of South Africa, and raising money and support for the armed struggle against apartheid. He returned to Johannesburg in triumph in December 1990, but he was unable to continue his executive duties because of a stroke he had suffered in 1989. In July 1991 Mandela was named ANC president general, and Tambo was elevated to honorary chairman. He died quietly of a stroke two weeks after the assassination of Chris Hani (q.v.), the former chief of staff of the ANC's military wing.

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Universalium. 2010.

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