25/08/2017 06:12 SAST | Updated 25/08/2017 09:13 SAST

This Is 'Not The Best Moment' For The ANC Which OR Tambo Spent 50 Years Building, Says His Son

Dali Tambo spoke at the opening of one of the biggest exhibitions on Oliver Reginald Tambo.

OR Tambo Foundation/ Apartheid Museum

Struggle hero Oliver Reginald Tambo would be saddened by the state of the ANC today, Dali Tambo told HuffPost SA on Thursday.

He was speaking a day after the Apartheid Museum in Johannesburg launched Oliver Reginald Tambo: The Modest Revolutionary -- one of its biggest exhibitions about the Tambo family to date.

"If I could say anything to my father today, I would say to him don't worry, you and all the ancestors can see that this is not the best time for the movement you spent 50 years of your life building," Dali said. "I would also say he must relax because he built it strong, and it will carry on going."

The Tambo foundation celebrated what would have been Oliver Tambo's birth on Wednesday with a ceremony at the exhibition, and a Women's Month celebration of Tambo's life at the Market Theatre. Apartheid revolutionaries like Dr Kingsley Makhubela, Frene Ginwala and Grace Shope were also in attendance.

I would say to him don't worry, you and all the ancestors can see that this is not the best time for the movement you spent 50 years of your life building

The Modest Revolutionary exhibit takes a look back at the life and times of the struggle hero, who died in 1993. Comprehensive in its scope, the exhibition covers Tambo's early life and education in the Transkei, his training as a teacher, his difficult choice of entering politics rather than the priesthood, his partnership as a lawyer with Nelson Mandela, his escape to exile, his principled leadership of the armed struggle and his championing of the isolation of the apartheid regime.

OR Tambo Foundation/ Apartheid Museum

Tambo 'belongs to the nation'
Intimate details of the Tambo family life are also on display at the exhibition, an important aspect for Dali and the Tambo family. "He's a public figure, and I always thought that he belonged to the nation, not just to the family. His life should be an open book. Also, for many years he wasn't allowed to be quoted, his life story wasn't allowed to be told, and so in this way I feel like this year is about revealing his story.

"He wasn't always an elderly man, you know, he had ambitions, he wanted to be a priest, and so on. We need to get rid of the myth, and reveal the man."

For most of his life, Dali says, he experienced the pressure of the Tambo name. "For fifteen years no one called me Dali, they called me Oliver's son. Only later in the conversation, would they ask, 'what's your name?' It was par for the course for us, the pressure of this legacy. But it was one of the things that made me decide not to not go into politics. I knew that I could never come close to his standard of politician, so that's why I decided to stay out of it, I suppose," he says, laughing.

Bittersweet moment
Dali's son, Oliver Tambo Jnr, was at the exhibition opening, and has spent his young life learning the lessons of his famous grandfather. "Sometimes, we have Sundays where I wold get the children to read chapters after lunch of his book. They also learn about him when they meet ANC leaders, from here or abroad, and hear stories about their grandfather.

"Oliver Tambo Jnr. was actually born on the same day as my father. He is very reserved, intelligent, and carries a lot of my father's traits. But I don't press it on them in a heavy way, but over the years they have come to appreciate what he did."

We need to get rid of the myth, and reveal the man.

The exhibition is bittersweet, Dali says, particularly seeing those memories of his mother and father. "Every time I see him with my mother, it reminds me of a story they would tell me about how they got married. People warned her that he was a troublemaker, and he was, but he became a great man.

"So for me, what draws emotion is seeing them together, and also seeing him young, and recognizing myself at that age. And seeing the energy he had, which translated into the work he did for the struggle, the work that got us here today. "