President Jacob Zuma has said that former ANC president Oliver Tambo was not a leader who was obsessed with himself and the position he held in the ANC.
Speaking during a wreath-laying ceremony in Benoni on Thursday, the president said even though Tambo was not a head of any state, he advocated that heads of states be respected.
Zuma also said that if there were difficulties, they must be solved in a “comradely” way and with dignity.
“We are celebrating a man who was never obsessed with himself and the position he held in the movement,” said Zuma.
“If there are difficulties let us address them [in a comradely way] and with dignity.
“We are celebrating a man who was unrelenting in his efforts to see a non-racial, non-sexist, united and democratic SA.
“If citizens are not in charge of the economy, but only the political power, that power will be eroded by those in charge of the economy.
“In OR Tambo’s time, leaders would not contradict each other. He wanted every leader to understand.”
The president also hailed Tambo’s wife, Adelaide, who had been also been instrumental in the fight against apartheid.
“Mama Adelaide Tambo was a great leader. We also celebrate her contribution to our struggle.”
The government is celebrating Tambo, who was born on this day in 1917. The anti-apartheid activist died in April 1993, a year before he could realise the freedom he hoped to achieve in South Africa.
Tambo, who was the longest serving president of the liberation movement, was first elected secretary-general of the ANC in 1954, the same year he received a banning order from the apartheid government.
In 1960, following the Sharpeville Massacre, Tambo embarked on a “Mission in Exile” in order to lobby international support for the ANC. This was to lobby international countries and business to boycott South Africa, thus eventually hamstringing the economy, and subsequently the apartheid government.