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Adelaide "Mama" Tambo (18 July 1929 – 31 January 2007) was a prominent anti-apartheid activist, political exile, and regarded as a hero of the liberation struggle against apartheid in South Africa.


Adelaide Frances Tambo
Adelaide Tambo.jpg
Born(1929-07-18)18 July 1929
Top Location, Vereeniging[1]
Died31 January 2007(2007-01-31) (aged 77)
Johannesburg, South Africa
NationalitySouth African
OccupationAnti-apartheid activist, politician
Known forAnti apartheid activist
Spouse(s)Oliver Tambo

She was involved in South African politics for five decades and was married to the late Oliver Tambo, president of the African National Congress (ANC), from 1956 until his death in 1993.

Early careerEdit

Born on 18 July 1929 in Top Location as Adelaide Frances Tshukudu, she was affectionately known as Mama Tambo in South Africa. At the age of 10, following a raid by the police on a riot in Top Location a police officer had was killed, and Adelaide's ailing grandfather, aged 82, was among those arrested and taken to the town square. Her grandfather collapsed and she had to sit with him until he regained consciousness. After the incident, she vowed to fight the police till the end. She attended the St Thomas Practising School in Johannesburg and Orlando High in Soweto.[2]

Tambo started working as a nurse at the Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital. In 1944, she worked as a courier for the ANC. She joined the ANC Youth League at 18, which she was tasked to open branches in Transvaal and elected chairperson of the George Goch branch. She left the country along with her husband, Oliver Tambo in 1960 and worked as a courier for her husband. She was also one of the founding members of Afro-Asian Solidarity Movement and Pan African Women's Organization (PAWO) in 1963.[3]

Political careerEdit

Following the end of apartheid, Tambo served as a member of parliament from 1994 to 1999.[4]

Tambo received the Order of the Baobab in Gold, one of the highest honours bestowed by the post-1994 South African government.[5] The South African Anglican Church awarded her the Order of Simon of Cyrene, the highest award given to laypeople for distinguished service.[6]

Personal life and deathEdit

Tambo was married to Oliver Tambo in December 1956 during the Treason Trial and the couple had three children; one of whom, their son, Dali, is a television talk-show personality.

Tambo died on 31 January 2007, aged 77 at her home in Johannesburg, from undisclosed causes.[2] She was buried next to her husband in her home town of Wattville on 10 February 2007. The service was held in a stadium and led by Anglican Archbishop Njongonkulu Ndungane. Among the thousands of mourners were presidents Thabo Mbeki and Nelson Mandela.[6]


  1. ^ "Adelaide Tambo". The Independent.
  2. ^ a b "Adelaide Frances Tambo". South African History Online.
  3. ^ Margie, Orford (2006). Life and Soul: Portraits of Women who Move South Africa. Juta and Company Ltd. p. 62. ISBN 978-1-770-13043-2.
  4. ^ "Struggle hero Adelaide Tambo dies". News24. 1 February 2007. Archived from the original on 19 February 2007.
  5. ^ "Profile of Adelaide Tambo". Archived from the original on 27 September 2007. Retrieved 1 February 2007.
  6. ^ a b "Anti-apartheid stalwart mourned", BBC News Online, 10 February 2007

External linksEdit

Further readingEdit