The real Oliver Tambo

Tambo (left) and Mandela, with customary black-power salute

I REFER to the airbrushed piece on Oliver Tambo by your now-ubiquitous columnist Dr Z Pallo Jordan (Tambo left an indelible imprint on our politics, Business Day April 25).

It is so breathtakingly unctuous that one is obliged to give some facts to the public in case they are tempted to view the African National Congress’s (ANC’s) past through Dr Jordan’s rosy prism.

Once again we hear of the ANC’s “moral high ground”. This has become something of a buzzword, but it is a misnomer.

A reading of any of the South African Institute of Race Relations’ books, particularly those by Anthea Jeffrey, will put to rest Dr Jordan’s fantasies and selective amnesia about the ANC and how it came to power.

“The Truth about the Truth Commission” shows in great detail that the bulk of the victims during the ANC’s violent revolution were black people, almost always in townships.

In light of this terror and killings, Mr Tambo’s speeches and pronouncements take on special significance. In a September 1985 interview with Newsweek, Mr Tambo discussed ANC military activities within SA and said that “avoiding civilian casualties will no longer be a factor in the ANC’s military actions”.

Referring to ANC proxy the United Democratic Front’s (UDF’s) terror campaign against township populations, Mr Tambo declared on Radio Freedom from Ethiopia (July 8 1985) that “for months we have maintained an uninterrupted offensive against the local government authorities in the black urban areas as well as the police”.

He then chastises those blacks who did not “respond to the same level of activity and determination (as that of the UDF’s cadres).

This is a situation which we must correct”. Coercive township terror was an effective UDF tactic.

The brutality the ANC unleashed against its own people is well documented. During a Lusaka domestic service broadcast on September 9 1985, Mr Tambo declared that the “current political crisis presents a great leap forward and indicates the start of a bloodbath that will eventually end apartheid”. The violence didn’t end in 1994.

Bloodbaths do not sit well with moral high grounds. If Dr Jordan has even a shred of integrity, he should present us with Oliver Tambo, warts and all.

He shouldn’t let the chance of having a regular say in a newspaper go to his head.

D Lawrence