Running a country is more difficult than fighting for freedom
The ANC has dedicated this year to OR Tambo because we are marking the centenary of his birth. We also honour him for the role he played as a leader of the ANC under difficult conditions.
I am often asked to recount my fondest memories of this great man. Some of them are serious, others funny, some petty, and others small.
He was a thinker, a man with whom you could discuss anything. He was also a good listener. What stood out was that you could engage in lengthy conversation, at the end of which you would realise he had been listening to, and remembered, every word. He chaired the national executive committee for many years, at a time when such meetings met for a full week.It was OR who brought about a political culture of building consensus as opposed to simply voting on matters. For him, you couldn't just meet and discuss the issues, then pass on. It was under his leadership that building consensus emerged as the political culture of the movement.I asked myself: will the ANC remain the same? This was because I was convinced the ANC would never be the same. What I believed then still holds true. We have had many great leaders in the ANC, but OR was a man who exemplified leadership.
He was a man who believed in nurturing and mentoring young leaders, and did not hesitate to give serious tasks to younger generations. I remember discussing the very issue in Maputo with him where he said: "This generation has done its job ... we should now allow the young people who have the potential to lead the organisation to do so."He told us: the struggle is tough - but rest assured that running a country is even more difficult than fighting for freedom. What some don't acknowledge often enough is that OR lived during the struggle. He did not live during the period he said would be more difficult than fighting for freedom. He would always say: "It is easy to break bridges when you are fighting the enemy, but when you are free it is your responsibility to build those very bridges."
This is precisely what we are challenged with as a country today.
Values, understanding, everything, is in theory one thing - but putting them into practice another.
The issue for us is how to maintain the values we all believe in and implement them today. The people looked up to us to help liberate them, and now they expect many things from us; sometimes the means are not there to do it all, or as quickly as they expect you to.
It is at such times that we need to examine the legacy of OR and redouble our efforts in order to succeed.
I would conclude my letter to him by saying that, indeed you were right - running a country is more difficult than fighting for freedom.