Oliver Reginald Kaizana Tambo

Oliver Reginald Tambo Timeline 1917 - 2011


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.


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


Tambo and some friends form the Bizana Students Association (BSA). He was elected Secretary
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
December, Enters for the matriculation examinations which he achieves with a first class pass


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
Tambo taught Mathematics and Physics at St Peter’s Secondary School in Rosettenville, Johannesburg
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
Tambo becomes a member of the National Executive Committee (NEC) of the ANC
Tambo serves his law articles with a company of lawyers, Max Kramer and Tuch.
Tuch and OR joined the law company of Solomon Kowalsky.
24 July, Qualifies as an attorney
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
Receives restriction orders from the State
Tambo is engaged to Adelaide Tsukhudu, a nurse
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
Heads the ANC’s Constitutional Commission


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.
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
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. 
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
Addresses the UN Special Committee on Apartheid on the situation in South Africa
Sets up military camps in Tanzania and Zambia.
Following the death of Chief Albert Luthuli, Tambo becomes the Acting President of the ANC
Tambo accompanies the Luthuli Detachment, an MK unit, on reconnaissance expeditions to the Zambesi River, sleeping in the open with the group


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.
Addresses the UN Security Council, the first head of a liberation movement to do so
An ANC delegation, headed by Tambo visits Vietnam, where they attended numerous lectures and meets with activists.
Addresses the first conference of the European Economic Community (EEC as it was then known) in Ireland


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
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
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.
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
Suffers a severe health fall back, leading him to lose his speech due to a stroke.


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
Installed as Chancellor of the University of Fort Hare
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


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
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