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Oliver Reginald Tambo (27 October 1917 - 24 April 1993) was a South African anti-apartheid politician and a central figure in the African National Congress (ANC).

Biography

A bust of Oliver Tambo at the OR Tambo International Airport.

He was born in Bizana in eastern Pondoland in what is now Eastern Cape. In 1940 he, along with several others including Nelson Mandela, was expelled from Fort Hare University for participating in a student strike. In 1942 Tambo returned to his former high school in Johannesburg to teach science and mathematics.

Tambo, along with Mandela and Walter Sisulu, was a founding member of the ANC Youth League in 1943, becoming its first National Secretary and later a member of the National Executive in 1948. The youth league proposed a change in tactics in the anti-apartheid movement. Previously the ANC had sought to further its cause by actions such as petitions and demonstrations; however, the Youth League felt these actions were insufficient to achieve the group's goals and proposed their own 'Programme of Action'. This programme advocated tactics such as boycotts, civil disobedience, strikes and non-collaboration.

In 1955 Tambo became Secretary General of the ANC after Walter Sisulu was banned by the South African government under the Suppression of Communism Act. In 1958 he became Deputy President of the ANC and in 1959 was served with a five year banning order by the government.

In response, Tambo was sent abroad by the ANC to mobilise opposition to apartheid. He settled with his family in Muswell Hill, north London, where he lived until 1990.[1] He was involved in the formation of the South African United Front. In 1967, Tambo became Acting President of the ANC, following the death of Chief Albert Lutuli. In 1985 he was re-elected President of the ANC. He returned to South Africa in 1991 after over 30 years in exile, and was elected National Chairperson of the ANC in July of the same year. Tambo died aged 75 due to complications from a stroke on April 24, 1993.

In 2004 he was voted number 31 in the SABC3's Great South Africans, scoring lower than H.F. Verwoerd, before the SABC decided to cancel the final rounds of voting, in light of the embarrassing results.

In late 2005, ANC politicians announced plans to rename Johannesburg International Airport after him. The proposal was accepted and the renaming ceremony occurred on October 27, 2006. The ANC-dominated government had previously renamed Jan Smuts Airport to Johannesburg International Airport in 1994 on the grounds that South African airports should not be named after political figures.

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