The "grand dame" of the liberation movement, Adelaide Tambo, will be remembered at Wattville in Benoni today. Tambo's gravesite and that of her late husband, Oliver, will be declared a national heritage monument. A cultural precinct will also be opened in their honour.
Adelaide Tambo, who devoted her entire life to the anti-apartheid struggle, died at the age of 77 in Johannesburg almost six years ago.
Her political career began at the tender age of seven in 1936 following a riot and police raid at Vereeniging in the Vaal Triangle. She witnessed her 82-year-old grandfather being arrested and falling to the ground. A young policeman pushed him around and called him a 'boy'. In hurt and anger, she vowed to fight apartheid to death.
At 15, Adelaide Tambo was smuggling documents and letters for the ANC. Two years later, she joined the ANC Youth League and was elected as a branch chairperson. She met her late husband, Oliver, at an ANC meeting when she was a student nurse in Pretoria. They got married while he was out on bail during the Treason Trial in December 1956.
Following the Sharpeville Massacre in 1960, the ANC sent them separately into exile to mobilise support for the liberation struggle and to isolate apartheid South Africa.
Former Speaker of Parliament, Dr Frene Ginwala, who met Adelaide Tambo in exile describes her as a strong woman, who was a mother to countless exiled South Africans. "She gave them love. She opened her home to them. One of the tragedies of current South Africa is that they didn't have an opportunity to really know people like Adelaide or OR Tambo."
At 15, Adelaide Tambo was smuggling documents and letters for the ANC
Oliver Tambo's biographer, Luli Callinicos, describes Adelaide Tambo as a woman of tremendous vitality. "When she was in exile with her husband, OR, away from her - he was based in Africa and she was in London and worked as a nurse, she used to work double-shifts so that she could have enough money to support her three children because the ANC could not afford to pay their cadres, even the most senior ones."
Upon her return to South Africa in 1991 Adelaide Tambo was disappointed to find black South Africans living in shacks and appearing to be worse off than in 1960. In 1994, she was elected as an ANC Member of Parliament for five years and also as the Treasurer of the ANC Women's League.
Former President Thabo Mbeki honoured Tambo with the National Order of the Baobab in Gold for her dedication to community service and nation-building.