Mrs. Tambo, Liberation Hero Dies

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Adelaide Tambo, widow of the architect of the African National Congress's decades long struggle against apartheid in South Africa - Oliver Tambo died on January 31 leaving a legacy of faith, courage, hardship and struggle that will endure for many years to come.

She joined the ANC, one of Africa's oldest political movements at the tender age of 18 and over the years was instrumental in influencing the direction and movement of the struggle against apartheid in South Africa.

Mama Tambo collapsed and died at her Johannesburg home on Wednesday night, the ruling ANC party said in a statement. "The ANC joins all South Africans in mourning the loss of a true heroine of our nation, a daughter of our soil who dedicated her life to the freedom of our people," the ANC statement said.

An educationist and freedom fighter in her own right, Adelaide married Oliver Tambo, who former South African president and anti-apartheid icon Nelson Mandela described as "the Jewel in our crown". Mandela together with the late veteran nationalists Oliver Tambo and Walter Sisulu formed the ANC youth league in 1949.

In a move befitting a true farewell to heroine who walked and toiled with the oppressed masses, South African newspapers ran news of Mama Tambo's death with banner headlines on their front pages this week. South Africa and the rest of the African continent joined the mourning of a strong and determined Black woman who sacrificed her life for the liberation of South Africa.

Mama Tambo was a campaigner for women's rights who was instrumental in strengthening the ANC Women's League as critical wing of fighting racial injustice in apartheid South Africa.

Tambo and her husband spent decades apart while working to promote the ANC's cause abroad. The veteran ANC stalwart Oliver Tambo left South Africa for neighboring Zambia in 1960, while his wife moved to England in the long tortuous journey to freedom. Mama Tambo's husband died of a stroke in 1993 and painfully without seeing the freedom he had fought for so long. His death came at a time when South Africa's liberation was within grasp.

Mama Tambo and her husband sacrificed their whole life for justice and democracy in South Africa.  Zimbabwe’s Ambassador to South Africa Simon Khaya Moyo said he learnt of the death of Mama Tambo with shock and dismay. “We have learnt with shock and dismay the sudden death and untimely demise of the illustrious heroine of the liberation struggle and ANC stalwart comrade Adelaide Tambo,” Moyo said.

“South Africa’s loss is Zimbabwe loss as well, we mourn together we grieve as one. In this trying moment we kindly convey our deepest condolences to the Tambo family. “In wishing them strength and staying power, may her soul anchor and rest in eternal peace,” he said.

Mama Tambo joins the list of prominent and unsung heroines who toiled under trying circumstances to liberate the oppressed masses who include Ruth First a journalist, academic and political activist, Lilian Ngoyi labor and political activist and numerous others.

She was born in a township outside Vereeniging on July 18 1929. Mama Tambo returned to South Africa after nearly 30 years in exile when the African National Congress was unbanned in 1990. "We've come back to a country where there's been no improvement in our people's lives. The future of the country is in our hands. Let's take up the challenge," she said soon after returning to home after decades in exile.

The outstanding contribution made by Mama Tambo to the dismantling of apartheid cannot be easily quantified. Her faith, courage and sacrifice has left an indelible and rich legacy that will inspire future generations to remain committed to the values of struggle, determination and freedom.

When asked how she would want to be remembered, Mama Tambo said: "As a servant of my people," something that showed her deep sense of humility and commitment to the service of the mankind. She leaves behind three children - daughters Tembi and Tselane and son Dali, a well known television talk show presenter.

Tsiko is The Black Star News's Southern Africa correspondent based in Harare.

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