With the government terming 2017 the ‘Year of OR Tambo’, as this year would have marked his 100th birthday, the legacies of former ANC leaders Oliver Reginald Tambo and Nelson Mandela were reflected on at the Stellenbosch Museum on Tuesday night.
The discussion was directed by former University Ombud Professor, Julian Sonn, and included Professor Bheki Mngomezulu, Professor Luli Callinicos, Lionel Adendorf and former SRC member, Lwazi Phakade.
Professor Callinicos, the autobiographer of OR Tambo, opened the proceedings by talking about Tambo as a man who had more to him than just politics. Callinicos brought up the issues of decolonising education and indigenous knowledge. She further stated that Tambo wanted to deepen indigenous knowledge and compare it to Western knowledge.
Government Communications Specialist, Mr Lionel Adendorf, compared the current leadership style of the government to the leadership of Tambo and Mandela. Adendorf spoke about how current politics have become reduced to the “art of elimination,” which differs from the “self-sacrificing leadership” that was characteristic of Tambo and Mandela.
Former SRC member, Phakade, spoke about the ANC Youth League and how it radicalised the ANC and its goals. Phakade also pointed out Tambo’s role in instilling “proper and correct leadership” in the ANC. Phakade further stated that politics have deteriorated and argued that “true leading is about being grounded to the masses”.
Professor Mngomezulu reflected on what the two leaders stood for and what current leaders could learn from them. Mngomezulu called both leaders “visionaries” and said that they were known for their “political stubbornness”. Mngomezulu further stated that both leaders were “not as disruptive” as the current leaders in government.
Colonialism and the effects thereof were debated by the floor and speakers. Adendorf said that “colonialism presupposes […] there was anarchy before Van Riebeeck arrived, which is wrong”. Adendorf added that “we need to know our own world and allow others to celebrate that with us”. Mngomezulu pointed out that Africans were responsible for many European inventions before Europeans invented them. Callinicos added that there is a need for education to redress the imbalance that colonialism created. – Dylan Jack