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Media Centre  |  COSATU Speeches

Message of Support at the Memorial Service of the late Adelaide Tambo by the President of COSATU Willy Madisha

4 February 2007

Programme Director, the Tambo family, the President of our movement and the Republic, the First lady, leaders of the Alliance, the Women`s League, the Youth League, leaders and members of our Movement and honoured guests

The workers of SA, organised under the banner of COSATU, rise to join the nation in mourning the passing of Mama-Adelaide Tambo.

For many decades during our struggle for liberation, we have known her as our mother, who together with our father O.R. Tambo, led tens of thousands of liberation fighters in horrible conditions of exile, whilst at the same time managing to keep alive struggle activism on the home front.

Mama Tambo sacrificed the milieu of comfort and warmth of a home, which many did, albeit under the erstwhile apartheid conditions.

A revolutionary in her own right, she refused to play second fiddle to the role played by that renowned father of the South African revolution, comrade O.R. Tambo. Thousands of our comrades and leaders today, be it those in parliamentary politics, state institutions and other spheres of transformation, passed through her hands and parental guidance when they arrived and lived in those harsh exile conditions.

As workers of SA, we are left with no doubt that if she was not there to lend the monumental support she did to the late father of our liberation struggle, OR Tambo, then the freedom of our people could have been postponed. Workers are convinced that O.R. could not have succeeded to build and hold the ANC together for more than three decades without her support and guidance.

We, who are leaders today in structures assigned to us by this liberation movement, know how difficult it is to spend quality time with our families, but that can never be compared to what mama Adelaide and the Tambo family went through, all because of their quest to deliver freedom to all the people of SA.

For all this we thank her, and this country`s workers know already that a chapter on her contribution already appears in the struggle history of our people. For the fact that she refused to stay at home until she passed on, and enjoy the fruits of liberation she helped deliver and chose to continue working for the poor, and in particular the disabled children, is proof enough of her dedication to the total attainment of freedom for all.

Today, SA is free, our people are united, we are respected beyond our seas and by different peoples of the world. All these because of her and her generation of leaders.

She passed away when we needed her the most, when we were looking forward to her guidance as we address momentous challenges of transformation, unemployment, poverty and disease. Those are challenges which if not addressed successfully, will reverse all gains achieved for our country by mama Tambo and those who passed before her, either through the hangman`s noose, bullets or torture by the erstwhile apartheid state, or unbearable exile conditions.

The passing of mama Tambo is yet another indication that our country is gradually and sadly being robbed of a generation; a generation of dedicated, dignified, unified and disciplined cadres; cadres who were dedicated to the attainment of indivisible freedoms for which they were prepared to die. That is a generation that ensured that the ANC grew to this age of being almost a century old, the oldest on our continent.

Today, many of us, thousands of whom are in leadership positions, do not know the real founding principles of this movement. We do not know innumerable policies adopted in hundreds of structural meetings and conferences this passing generation convened. That is why we can even distort some of the information policies and resolutions they adopted. Because some of them are still alive, they must not abandon us, but we too must seek facts from them.

The question usually asked by hundreds of liberation movements on our continent and the entire globe is, how did the ANC manage to survive for almost a century. The right answer which they have always been given is that the generation of mama Tambo believed in unity of the movement.

They subscribed to a milieu of respect of the movement structures and its leadership; that generation believed that differences are addressed within the movement structures, that open debates must be allowed and we must protect those whose points of view we differed; that comrades must not lie in order for them to attain their selfish ends; that they must not destroy others, on whose shoulders they will stand in order to be popular, that they must never play victim so that they forever can be in the limelight.

The question we now must ask is whether those who remain have the capacity to keep the ANC together. I don`t believe we can, unless we copy from Mama Tambo, that for this movement to reach another hundred years, we must remain united, stop lies and respect ideas of others.

We must not meet in corners of darkness and say who we destroy so that we can emerge. Equally, we must defy as a movement those who want to use their knowledge attained in their privileged positions given to them by this movement, to stop others from engaging, or ridiculing them for being "ignorant". If we do all these, we will undo all the good work mama Tambo and her generation fought for.

There are times when some of us feel ashamed of being leaders in circumstances such as todays and this must be corrected.

Workers hope that she will rest in peace and once again we thank her for all she sacrificed and gave to our nation.

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