South African President Jacob Zuma visited a humble house in suburban north London yesterday where late ANC leader Oliver Tambo lived and which served as an unlikely refuge for anti-apartheid activists.
Accompanied by one of his three wives, Tobeka Madiba, Zuma visited the three-storey Edwardian house in London’s Muswell Hill on the second day of his state visit to Britain.
Speaking to reporters outside the house, Zuma said it brought back memories of his visits in the 1970s and 1980s.
“Some of us used to come here and bring messages. It brings back those days when we could not speculate about when would be the day of freedom, but we were determined to fight until we defeated apartheid.”
The house in Alexandra Park Road was home to Tambo’s family from 1960 until 1990. It served as a place of refuge for ANC leaders in exile from the apartheid regime.
Zuma unveiled a commemorative plaque inside the house which has been bought by the South African government and may be turned into a museum.
He thanked the British people for allowing the house to be used as a base, even though the ANC was a proscribed organisation.
“I thank the British who made a contribution so remarkable. We knew at any given time that the power of the people was too powerful for a government to say you can’t stay here,” Zuma said.
“We were determined to fight until we defeated apartheid.”
The ceremony was attended by several veterans of the anti-apartheid movement, along with British politicians, David Steele for the Liberal Democrats and Labour peer Glenys Kinnock.
Tambo’s son Dali, 51, also attended. He lived there with his two sisters and mother Adelaide, visited intermittently by his father.
Dali told reporters the visit of president Zuma was “a great honour” for the Tambo family.
“It’s wonderful in many ways, particularly as president Zuma came here during those days of the struggle,” he said.
Zuma’s three-day visit culminates today with an address to parliament.