ANC statement on the death of Adelaide Tambo, 31 January 2007

It is with deep regret and a profound sense of loss that the African National Congress has learnt of the death this evening (31 January 2007) of Adelaide Tambo, widow of the late ANC President Oliver Tambo and an outstanding stalwart of our movement.

Adelaide Tambo collapsed at her home in Johannesburg this evening.

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.

Together with all South Africans, the ANC extends heartfelt sympathies and condolences to the Tambo family on this great loss.

Throughout the most difficult times of the struggle for democracy, Adelaide Tambo`s strength, compassion and determination served as inspiration to generations of freedom fighters.

In a lifetime dedicated to the achievement of South Africa`s liberation, Adelaide Tambo demonstrated fortitude in the face of adversity and responded selflessly to the sacrifices demanded of her and her family.

A political activist from a young age, Adelaide Tambo fought to ensure that women were an integral part of the liberation struggle and should assume their rightful place in society.

Adelaide Tambo was born on 18 July 1929 in Vereeniging`s Top Location.

Her political life started at the age of 10 after a police raid following a riot in Top Location, in which a police officer had been killed. Tambo`s ailing grandfather, aged 82, was among those arrested and marched to the town square. Here the old man collapsed. As she waited for him to regain consciousness, she swore to fight against the brutal treatment meted out against her grandfather.

At the time she was a primary school pupil at St Thomas Practising School in Johannesburg. Five years later, she started working for the ANC as a courier, while studying at Orlando High.

At the age of 18, Tambo joined the ANC Youth League and was almost immediately elected chairperson of the George Goch branch. Her early work involved opening branches of the Youth League in the Transvaal. Later, as a student nurse at Pretoria General Hospital, she started a branch of the Youth League with the help of people like Sheila Musi, Mildred Kuzwayo and Nonhle Zokwe.

She met the late Oliver Tambo at a meeting of the Eastern Township branch of the ANC and married him in December 1956, during the marathon Treason Trial.

Oliver and Adelaide Tambo were asked by the ANC to leave the country in 1960 and to carry on the work of the organisation outside South Africa. Based in London until the unbanning of the ANC, Tambo was a founder member of the Afro-Asian Solidarity Movement and the Pan-African Women`s Organisation (PAWO). She also worked with International Defence and Aid Fund (IDAF) to identify and financially assist some of the families whose children left South Africa after 1976.

After her return to South Africa, Adelaide Tambo continued to serve the ANC, undertaking various responsibilities as a senior leader of the movement.

More information: 

Smuts Ngonyama 082 994 2112