Oliver Reginald Tambo was a pivotal figure in the African National Congress (ANC) and the anti-apartheid movement. Known fondly as OR Tambo, he dedicated his life to the fight against inequality and spent over 30 years in exile in the UK where he mobilised support for the ANC in the struggle against apartheid.

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Oliver Tambo and Nelson Mandela opened the first black legal firm in the country in 1952.

Born 1917 in the Eastern Cape, Oliver Tambo was christened Kaizana − after Germany's last emperor, Kaizer Wilhelm II. His name was changed to Oliver when he attended a prominent school where an English name was required. Tambo went on to complete a B.Sc. degree at the University College of Fort Hare near Alice where he met Nelson Mandela and other prominent activists. Tambo led a student class boycott in support of the need for a democratically elected Student Representative Council and was expelled from the university. Unable to complete his honours degree, Tambo went on to teach at a Johannesburg high school.

Tambo, along with Mandela and Walter Sisulu, founded the ANC Youth League and Women's League in 1944. When the National Party enforced its oppressive laws in 1948, Tambo studied law through correspondence and opened the first black law firm with Nelson Mandela in 1952 to help fight for the rights of black people. By 1958, Tambo became ANC deputy president and in 1960, he was South Africa to rally for support from other heads of state. From London and later Zambia, struggle activist Oliver Tambo developed the policies of the ANC and propagated its strategy against the apartheid regime. He became a highly respected figure in political global circles.

Tambo became president of the ANC in 1969.

Tambo returned to South Africa in 1991 after over 30 years in exile, and handed over the reins of the ANC to newly freed Nelson Mandela after more than two decades of leadership. But he was now suffering from ill health and died of a stroke in 1993, ironically, a year before the country’s first democratic elections.

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