Oliver Reginald Kaizana Tambo

Oliver Reginald Tambo Timeline 1917 - 2011

1900s

1917
27 October, Oliver Reginald Tambo (OR) is born in the village of Kantolo, Mbizana, in the Mpondoland (eQawukeni), region of the Eastern Cape.  His mother, Julia, was the third wife of Mzimeni Tambo, son of a farmer and assistant salesperson at a local trading store.

1920s

1928
April, Tambo and his brother, Alan, enrolled at the Anglican Holy Cross missionary school at Flagstaff in the Eastern Cape.

1930s

1933
Tambo and some friends form the Bizana Students Association (BSA). He was elected Secretary
1936
November, Writes his Junior Certificate (JC) examination, along with all black and white students in the then Transvaal (now Gauteng) and  passes the JC examination with a first class
1938
December, Enters for the matriculation examinations which he achieves with a first class pass

1940s

1942
Is unanimously elected as Chairperson of the Students' Committee of his residence, Beda Hall, University of Fort Hare. 
Graduates with a BSc degree and but is expelled for political activity just as he embarks on a Diploma in Higher Education.
Meets Walter Sisulu in Johannesburg
1943–1947
Tambo taught Mathematics and Physics at St Peter’s Secondary School in Rosettenville, Johannesburg
1944
September, Under the leadership of Anton Lembede, a group of young people form the ANC Youth League (ANCYL). At its official inauguration , OR is elected as its secretary
1947
Tambo becomes a member of the National Executive Committee (NEC) of the ANC
1948
Tambo serves his law articles with a company of lawyers, Max Kramer and Tuch.
1949
Tuch and OR joined the law company of Solomon Kowalsky.
1950s
1951
24 July, Qualifies as an attorney
1952
Establishes the first Black legal partnership with Nelson Mandela
The state prevents Walter Sisulu from taking an active part in ANC affairs, Tambo becomes the Secretary General of the organisation
1954
Receives restriction orders from the State
1955
Tambo is engaged to Adelaide Tsukhudu, a nurse
1956
Tambo comes to live in Wattville, Benoni
6 December, Two days before the Bishop of Johannesburg was due to prepare him for ordination as a priest; Tambo is arrested along with 155 others on charges of high treason
1959
Heads the ANC’s Constitutional Commission

1960s

1960
Tambo is detained in South West Africa (Namibia). He was there to defend activists who were arrested for political activity
27 March, Tambo goes into exile. He is driven by Ronald Segal , the editor of the liberal journal, Africa South,  across the Bechuanaland (now Botswana)  border. 
1 May, Tambo’s first visit to northern Europe was to Denmark, at the invitation of the Prime Minister
15 September, Adelaide and the children land in London.
1962
January, Meets Mandela and Joe Matthews in Dar es Salaam
Thabo Mbeki meets Tambo in Dar es Salaam, after Duma Nokwe and Govan Mbeki instruct him, on behalf of the ANC, to leave South Africa and go into exile
1 May, Addresses the annual gathering of the Swedish Social Democrats
August, The Swedish Prime Minister Tage Erlander officially receives Tambo
1962
October, An ANC consultative meeting in Lobatse, Botswana confirms an ANC’s mandate, that OR was to head the ANC’s diplomatic mission and to communicate to the world the political situation in South Africa. 
1963
Visits the USSR and China to gain support from these two countries.
October, Addresses the United Nations General Assembly Special Political Committee appealing for the freedom of all South Africans
1964
Addresses the UN Special Committee on Apartheid on the situation in South Africa
1965
Sets up military camps in Tanzania and Zambia.
1967
Following the death of Chief Albert Luthuli, Tambo becomes the Acting President of the ANC
1968
Tambo accompanies the Luthuli Detachment, an MK unit, on reconnaissance expeditions to the Zambesi River, sleeping in the open with the group

1970s

1976
Following the Soweto student rebellion, Tambo approaches the international community for assistance. He also approaches the Tanzanian Government for a piece of land to establish a school for exiles coming to the camps.
1977
Addresses the UN Security Council, the first head of a liberation movement to do so
1978
An ANC delegation, headed by Tambo visits Vietnam, where they attended numerous lectures and meets with activists.
1979
Addresses the first conference of the European Economic Community (EEC as it was then known) in Ireland

1980s

1985
8 January, Calls on the South African people to ‘Render South Africa Ungovernable’
June, Tambo chairs the ANC’s Kabwe Conference
October, Following an address to the Foreign Affairs Committee of the House of Commons in London, the United Kingdom, as part of the Commonwealth, sent an Eminent Persons Group to investigate the situation in the country
At a press conference during the UN Conference on Women, Tambo stressed that the ANC’s liberation struggle would not be complete until the women of South Africa were free
Tambo and the ANC meet a high-powered delegation of the foremost captains of industry from South Africa.
Unveils a statue erected by the Greater London Council on the South Bank, London in honour of Nelson Mandela
1986
April, Meets with the German Foreign Minister, Hans Dietrich Genscher for talks in Bonn, Germany
Tambo convenes the first meeting of the ANC’s Constitutional Committee in Lusaka, which Jack Simons heads
1987
21 January, Tambo and Allan Boesak of the United Democratic Front (UDF) appear for the first time together in public at the Riverside Church in New York, America, at the Olof Palme Memorial Lecture on Disarmament and Development.
28 May, Tambo speaks at the Canon Collins Memorial Lecture in London calling upon all to support the struggle in the country by isolating apartheid in every facet of life
September, At the International Convention for the Rights of Children Conference, in Harare, dealing with the imprisonment and torture of children in South Africa, Tambo opens his speech by reading a poem by South African poet, Ingrid Jonker
Heads a top-secret mission, Operation Vula, a covert project.
1988
At the Scottish Anti Apartheid Movement’s rally, Tambo is invited to launch their Glasgow to London march calling for the release of Nelson Mandela
June, Tambo is the guest of honour at the Nelson Mandela 70th Birthday Tribute at Wembley Stadium, London, organised by the British Anti Apartheid Movement
1989
Suffers a severe health fall back, leading him to lose his speech due to a stroke.

1990s

1990
The London Borough of Haringey confers the Freedom of the Borough on Tambo – the first ever recipient
March, Tambo meets Nelson Mandela for the first time in Sweden, after nearly three decades
December, The entire Tambo family flies back to South Africa
1991
Installed as Chancellor of the University of Fort Hare
1993
23 April, Tambo passes away in Johannesburg
30 April, Father Trevor Huddleston, an old friend, delivers an address at the Requiem Mass for Tambo at St Mary’s Cathedral, Johannesburg
2 May, Tambo’s funeral takes place in Johannesburg

2000s

2006
26 October, The inaugural lecture of the Oliver Tambo Lecture Series takes place in Glasgow, Scotland
27 October, Johannesburg Airport is renamed the OR Tambo International Airport
2011
1 October, The first-ever Oliver and Adelaide Tambo Liberation Walk took place in Ekurhuleni
25 October, President Jacob Zuma officially launches the Oliver and Adelaide Tambo Foundation in Johannesburg

Last updated : 21-Apr-2017

This article was produced for South African History Online on 28-Oct-2011