Tambo Eulogy

History without context invariably degenerates into propaganda. Arushan Naidoo’s eulogy of Oliver Tambo (Mercury, 9 November) is a case in point.

In the first instance, Naidoo’s eulogy hardly qualifies to feature on a page which claims to be for “analysis.” Whatever private views he has towards Tambo as his hero are fine but given the prominence, they were afforded plainly suggests their publication was intended to serve a political purpose.

As such, it is disappointing to note how the past is selectively mined so as to bolster current political agendas and platforms. Indeed the discipline of History now seems open to exploitation nd abuse from all and sundry.

In correcting some of Naidoo’s views on Tambo, he should note that the ANC leadership in exile enjoyed plush lifestyles courtesy of their Soviet and Swedish financiers. To state that Tambo was an “inseparable” ally of Samora Machel should sound alarm bells for anyone familiar with Machel’s tyranny in Mozambique. Certainly, Tambo cannot be credited for having played a key role in the transfer of power to the ANC in the 1990s. That role belongs to Mandela.

While Tambo is generally portrayed as a moderate, he never condemned the torture and executions that were carried out in ANC camps and the horrific conditions that prevailed there. But then that was why he was characterised as more of an umpire in striving to contain the fractious elements within the ANC than as a dynamic leader.

If Arushan Naidoo wants to contextualise Tambo’s role in history, he needs to divest himself of infatuation and read a bit more widely. Stephen Ellis’s book The ANC in Exile would be a good start along with Niel Barnard’s Secret Revolution.

Sent into The Mercury and published, 12 Nov 2017.

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