ANC’s OR Tambo lecture: Supporters defy call for unity

2012-10-26 12:11

Guests at the ANC’s OR Tambo centenary lecture, delivered by President Jacob Zuma in Pretoria today, openly defied calls by the ANC not to display divisive tendencies ahead of the party’s conference.

As Zuma took to the podium, singing a liberation song, some guests rolled their hands in a substitution sign – a symbol that has widely been used by anti-Zuma members at various gatherings of the ANC – while others lifted two fingers, signalling a demand for a second term as party president in Mangaung in December.

Some wore T-shirts in support of Zuma, with the phrase “Tshwane 4 JZ” on them.

Ironically, in his address, Zuma lauded former ANC stalwart Oliver Tambo for keeping the organisation together in exile – during the most difficult time in its history.

Zuma said that if Tambo were alive today, he would have advised the ANC leadership to settle their differences internally rather than publicly.

“He would call on the ANC and on its members and supporters to rise above petty squabbles internally, and instead weld together a popular movement equal to the challenges of our times,” said Zuma.

Addressing over 1 000 delegates and guests at the lecture in celebration of 100 years of the party’s existence in Pretoria, Zuma eulogised Tambo as a highly principled leader.

Zuma, who served the ANC structures with Tambo in exile, praised Tambo, who died of a stroke in 1993, for playing a “fatherly role” to everyone who was in exile.

Describing Tambo as a unifier and a wise counsellor, Zuma shared numerous anecdotes about the time he and other ANC leaders had spent with Tambo in exile.

The lecture, which was attended by Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe, former Mozambican president Joachim Chissano, diplomats, ANC national executive committee members and members of the Tambo family, took place at the University of Pretoria’s sports centre.

It’s part of the third International Solidarity Conference, which starts today and ends on Sunday.

The conference is a celebration of the assistance given by the international community to the ANC against the fight to end apartheid.

Zuma reminded ANC members that Tambo always espoused engagement rather than divisive tendencies “to settle petty squabbles”.

“He would remind us that the responsibility of the ANC membership and leadership is to keep our minds while everybody else around us loses theirs,” said Zuma.

He emphasised the importance of unity within the ANC.

“President Tambo would remind us not to confuse the nation and friends around the world through petty squabbles and factionalism. As a leader of society, the ANC must lead by example, displaying cohesion, clarity and respect for one another and for the nation as a whole.

“He would urge all of us to pursue the course of the greatest unity of democratic forces, especially the revolutionary alliance,” said Zuma.

“In honouring Tambo, the ANC could never rest while the majority of South Africans live in abject poverty.

“We make a pledge to President Tambo that for as long as there are people who still live in shacks, children who are being taught in mud schools, families with no access to quality healthcare and children who go to bed hungry, we cannot rest as the African National Congress,” said Zuma.

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