ANC stalwart Gertrude Shope, Ambassador Abdul Minty and Lord David Steel of Aikwood during the Oliver Tambo 100 years celebration at Trevor Huddleston CR Memorial Centre in Sophiatown. Picture: Matthews Baloyi
Johannesburg - Even though he didn’t live to see the change, he knew it was coming.

These were the words of Lord David Steel of Aikwood, who was one of the guest speakers at an Evening of Recollection and Reflection on the Life of Oliver Tambo.

Tambo’s life was celebrated yesterday at the Trevor Huddleston CR Memorial Centre in Sophiatown, Joburg.

The former president of the ANC would have turned 100 this year.

Tambo built relationships with UK anti-apartheid organisations, particularly with Archbishop Trevor Huddleston.

In 1988, Huddleston initiated the Nelson Mandela Freedom at 70 Campaign, which included Mandela's birthday concert at Wembley Stadium and the Nelson Mandela Freedom March from Glasgow to London.

On Wednesday, some of his dearest activist friends gave recollections and reflections of the revolutionary, who served as president of the ANC between 1967 and 1991.

Dali Tambo shares his memories of his father during the event. Picture: Matthews Baloyi

Speakers included Lord Steel, who was the president of the Anti-Apartheid Movement in the UK from 1966 to 1970.

He was also an observer at the first democratic elections in 1994.

He said Tambo was not only inspirational, but also "a terrific asset and compelling speaker" during protests in the UK against apartheid.

“Tambo spoke with great fire and vigour,” he said.

Steel said Tambo and his wife Adelaide were "a terrific pair". The house they shared in the UK was a living memorial to them.

“It’s interesting to look back and see what has happened since then,” Steel remarked.

He said Tambo made a deep and lasting impression on him.

Ambassador Abdul Minty lobbying at the International Olympic Committee in 1963 was instrumental in securing the suspension of the South African Olympic Committee from the Olympic movement.

He was also the honorary secretary of the British Anti-Apartheid Movement from 1962 and 1995.

Minty said the friendship between Huddleston and Tambo was remarkable.

He shared memories of their time together.

Former president of the ANC Women’s League and anti-apartheid activist Gertrude Shope met Adelaide Tambo before she met Oliver.

“I got to know OR at rallies. I must thank him in leading us to the liberation of the country.”

Shope said that while they were in exile in Tanzania, Tambo told them to form a women’s section.

“He guided us well as novices and encouraged us to take on the work that men are doing,” she said.

Shope said the encouragement received from Tambo gave them the confidence they needed to make things happen.

“OR helped us a lot in thinking about other people. As women we must look after everyone in the country,” she said.

Shope said Tambo was a stern man who always made sure people accounted for their actions.

The Soweto Gospel Choir provided entertainment. A photo exhibition of the friendship between Tambo and Huddleston was also on display.

The evening was a collaboration between the centre, the British High Commission and the Oliver and Adelaide Tambo Foundation.

The centenary celebrations seek to remember Tambo's life and commitment to the anti-apartheid Struggle and its values, both during his time in South Africa and during the decades he spent in exile.

The Star