Webinar: African Liberation – The Historical and Contemporary Significance of Re-discovered Nationalist Speeches at Chatham House of Dr Eduardo Mondlane and Oliver Tambo

Members event Recording
10 July 2020 — 1:00PM TO 2:00PM

This event was organized by the Africa Programme and Members Events team at Chatham House.

Two forgotten speeches at Chatham House in 1968 and 1985 by African nationalist leaders Dr Eduardo Mondlane and Oliver Tambo at key moments of their liberation struggle for majority rule are re-examined for their significance by their daughters and ‘Prexy’ Nesbitt.

When Dr Eduardo Mondlane delivered his speech outlining his argument for an independent and socialist Mozambique he did so as FRELIMO’s president and at a time of heightened tensions with Portugal – his country’s colonizers. By the time Oliver Tambo visited Chatham House in 1985, it was 10 years after Mozambique had gained its independence, and nine before the end of apartheid in South Africa. Tambo told his audience, in a speech that is being published for the first time, that his choice was simple – submit or fight.

The arguments outlined by Mondlane and Tambo demonstrate that, while there may have been change in the intervening decades, in the context of the Black Lives Matter movement, a lot has not changed. The speakers at this event will offer their professional and personal insights into the remarks of their respective fathers in a historical and contemporary context.

The discussant draws on his knowledge of, and personal relationships with, Mondlane, who he was with when he was assassinated, and Tambo as well as other leading liberation and civic rights leaders from the past 50 years which he worked closely with including Nelson Mandela and Dr Martin Luther King.

2020 is the UNESCO-celebrated centenary of the birth of Eduardo Chivambo Mondlane who was born 20 June 1920. He served as the founding president of the Mozambique Liberation Front (FRELIMO) until he was assassinated in Dar-es-Salaam on 3 February 1969. Mondlane began working in 1957 as research officer in the Trusteeship Department of the United Nations but resigned from his post to participate in political activism. He became an assistant professor of anthropology at Syracuse University and helped develop the East African Studies Program there but, in 1963, he resigned from his post to move to Tanzania to fully engage in the liberation struggle.

Oliver Reginald Kaizana Tambo, born on 27 October 1917, also known as O. R. Tambo, was a South African anti-apartheid politician, revolutionary and the longest serving president of the African National Congress (ANC) having served from 1967 to 1991. In 1943, Tambo, Nelson Mandela and Walter Sisulu founded the ANC Youth League and in 1955, Tambo became secretary general and then deputy president of the ANC in 1959 which resulted in him being banned by the apartheid government. Tambo then went into exile for 30 years where he mobilized international support for the anti-apartheid movement until 1990.

With London being one of his main bases of operation, Tambo successfully lobbied for apartheid to be declared a crime against humanity by the United Nations. Tambo died on the 24 April 1993, a year shy of the first democratic elections that dedicated his life to attain. In 1991, he was succeeded as ANC president by Nelson Mandela, who went on to be the first democratically elected president of the Republic of South Africa in 1994.

‘Prexy’ (Rozell W.) Nesbitt was born in Chicago in the US and engaged in solidarity for southern African liberation for decades. He was with Eduardo Mondlane in Tanzania in the 1960s and worked closely with other nationalist leaders including Nelson Mandela, Samora Machel, Amilcar Cabral, Julius Nyerere and the American civil rights movement leader the Dr Martin Luther King. Prexy’s career has also included extensive consulting and training on class, race, multiculturalism and diversity. He will draw out the broader significance of these speeches including for the Black Lives Matter movement.

Chatham House is publishing the Oliver Tambo speech and Q&A with the kind permission of his family, as the original event was held under the Chatham House Rule and therefore names of speakers have been redacted in the transcript. However, for clarity, readers should note that redactions relating to Oliver Tambo’s words are where the transcript refers to ‘Speaker’ .


Chatham House Centenary:
Throughout our centenary year in 2020, Chatham House celebrates a century of influence, independent analysis and trusted dialogue with a number of exciting initiatives and partnerships. This event is part of a series of events and research outputs linked to the main goals for our second century, which are to promote sustainable and equitable growth; peaceful and thriving societies; and inclusive and accountable governance.


HE Nyeleti Mondlane, Minister of Gender, Children and Social Action, Government of Mozambique
HE Nomatemba Tambo, South African High Commissioner to the UK
Discussant: Dr. Rozell Nesbitt, Presidential Fellow in Peace Studies, Chapman University
Chair: Dr Alex Vines OBE, Director, Africa Programme, Chatham House

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