Thursday, October 27, 2016

27th October 2016
ANC Viewpoints

On this day 99 years ago, a liberator, fighter and protector of women’s rights was born.

We hail the blessed mother to Oliver Reginald Kaizana Tambo (OR), umama uJulia, who carried and nurtured an African man with a sensitive heart and fighting spirit for women’s emancipation.

The year 2016 marks the 98 Years of Women’s Struggles.

The African National Congress Women’s League (ANCWL) has been honoring those who have made significant contributions in the struggle for women emancipation. This cannot be complete until we take the journey from the era of President Oliver Reginald Tambo who took women issues to the center stage within the African National Congress (ANC) and provided leadership in society with regards to women empowerment.

It may not be a story that’s usually narrated but history tells us that back in 1941, one white person who was in charge of the kitchen at the then College of Fort Hare where Cde OR was a Sciences student, assaulted a black woman employee. As it was expected during the dark days of segregation, an enquiry into the matter exonerated the white man involved. It was none other than Tambo who influenced students to stage a boycott of classes in protest. Standing up for the rights of a black woman employee, amongst many of his leadership qualities, elevated Comrade OR’s into being unanimously elected chairperson of the Students’ Committee of his residence, Beda Hall in 1942.

As we honor the life and the legacy of President Tambo, we acknowledge his contribution towards women empowerment and gender equality and the impact thereof. His commitment in advocating for gender equality that began during his student days, continued. When Tambo was the head of the ANC’s Constitutional Commission in 1959, he recommended that more constitutional recognition be given to the ANCWL hence we are indeed humbled to be part of today’s celebration.

President Tambo further advanced the agenda of our liberation by forming a committee on women emancipation guided by the ANC on issues of gender equality and the struggle for women’s rights. This era also marked the endorsement of non-racialism and the Freedom Charter amongst others. The revised constitution came to be known as the Tambo Constitution to signify his commitment to political work within the ANC.

The banning of the ANC and the ANCWL in 1960 forced women to work underground in their pursuance for liberation. The women in exile organized themselves into the ANC Women’s Section. It was at the ANC Women’s Section Conference in Angola in the year 1981 that President Tambo affirmed his confidence in women leadership where he said,

“We invite the Women’s Section of the ANC and the black women of South Africa, more oppressed and more exploited than any section of the population, to take up this challenge and assume their proper role outside the kitchen among the fighting ranks of our movement and its command post.”

He believed that the Women’s Section was not an end in itself but a weapon of struggle to be correctly used against all forms and levels of oppression and inequality in the interests of a victorious struggle of the people. It was under his leadership that another gain was achieved for women where the ANC accepted the attribute of non-sexism into its constitution in its vision for a new South Africa.

Subsequently to the unbanning of political organizations the ANCWL was relaunched in 1990. In his message to the Women’s Conference in 1990 he said,

“It is the women of South Africa who have played a vital role in the mass mobilization, armed struggle, which together, made possible your meeting openly and legally today. The struggle must now be taken forward to ensure that the gains which have been made lead to further advancements.”

The words of President Tambo have remained a compass in all struggles for women. Therefore, it remains the duty of the current leadership to ensure that the agenda of women emancipation does not fall by the wayside, in particular, for the women who still require access to resources and are still at the bottom of the economic ladder.

As we celebrate this giant of our movement, let us acknowledge that the leadership of Cde OR has laid a formidable foundation for different generations of women. His legacy includes numerous gains for women in the negotiations for democracy and also ensured a high proportion of women in parliament, a gender sensitive Constitution and the establishment of State machinery to mainstream gender equality. He did not live long enough to witness democracy but his legacy is democracy, his legacy lives on!

As South African women we are greatly indebted to this selfless giant, a man of integrity, the embodiment of the National Democratic Revolution, the longest serving President of the ANC. Indeed, today, we are proud to stand on the broad shoulders of this unifying giant of the oldest liberation in the world.

Cde Oliver Reginald Tambo. We thank you.
Machi, uNomfe ayigotywa; igotywa ngethokazi.


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