Durban Street Names: Adelaide Tambo

Who are the people that Durban’s streets are named after?
What did they do?

I didn’t have a clue about most of them, until I started researching, particularly the women whose stories I was never told.

To start the series off , I’ll do the street in my own neighbourhood of Durban North that I drive every single day – Adelaide Tambo Street, formerly Kensington Drive.

mama tambo
Adelaide Frances Tambo was born on 18 July 1929 at the Top Location, Vereeniging, in the Vaal Triangle. Ma Thambo, as she was affectionately known, died on 31 January 2007 at her Hyde Park home in Johannesburg at the age of 77.

Her introduction to politics was brutal; at the age of 10, she witnessed her 82-year-old grandfather being publicly whipped until he collapsed in the town square. As she was to recount later in life:

“His brutal and humiliating treatment at the hands of the police was the trigger, the deciding factor.”

While a 15-year-old at Orlando high school in Johannesburg, she started working for the ANC. She joined the youth league (ANCYL) at the age of 18, soon becoming chair of her local branch, and helped to start up others, including one at Pretoria general hospital, where she was a student nurse. It was through the ANCYL that she met Oliver. He proposed to her in 1954, but it took two years before she accepted him.

On August 9 1956 Adelaide took part with 20,000 others in the Women’s March on the Union Buildings in Pretoria – then the seat of white government – in protest against the pass laws.

That December, three weeks before their wedding was scheduled, 155 leading members of the ANC, including Oliver, were arrested and charged with treason. Fortunately, they were granted bail, and the wedding went ahead.
Adelaide Tambo Drive
After the Sharpeville massacre of March 21 1960, when 69 people were killed after police opened fire on a pass law protest, the ANC asked Oliver to lead it from exile. Adelaide followed a few months later. In London she worked as a nurse to support the family, while her husband travelled extensively.
While exiled in London, Adelaide Tambo was a very active member of the ANC and the anti-apartheid movement.
She had a strong physical presence – reinforced by a variety of African headdresses and garments – a booming voice and laughed a lot.

adelaide tamboWith her commanding personality, sometimes almost intimidating, she had an ability to get results; she knew just about every African and Asian ambassador and was highly regarded by the diplomatic corps. She gave lavish parties in her home in Muswell Hill, north London, where actors, writers, journalists and political figures often visited. But she also held down a job at the nearby Whittington hospital, and did agency work as a district nurse, sometimes putting in up to 20 hours a day.

The couple returned to South Africa in 1990, after the release of Mandela and the unbanning of the ANC. Mandela insisted that the returning Oliver Tambo remain ANC president.

In 1994 she was elected to represent the ANC in Parliament. Besides serving as national Treasurer of the ANC Women’s League, Adelaide occupied herself with community work, She launched the Adelaide Tambo Trust for the Elderly and was honorary life patron of the Cape Town City Ballet.220px-Adelaide_Tambo

Her contribution to the liberation struggle and commitment to community projects earned her several awards, namely, the Noel Foundation Life Award for initiating the anti-apartheid movement in Britain; the first Oliver Tambo/Johnny Makatini freedom award in February 1995; the Order of Simon of Cyrene in July 1997, the highest order given by the Anglican Church for distinguished service by lay people and, in 2002, the Order of the Baobab in Gold.


Why I Love My Stomach Rolls

Last week at yoga, I was effectively forced to stare at pools of sweat gathering in my stomach rolls.

The pose had me sitting down, folded over, head hanging into my lap, looking at my belly. I don’t what this yoga pose is actually called. Probably Folded Moon or Curled Up Squirrel or something like that.

It was pretty gross.

Exercise – or “sportsing” as I like to call it – has never really been my jam. I’ve had my gym contract cancelled twice for not using it often enough, despite the free parking ticket you get when you do. I felt no shame walking into the gym, swiping that card and walking straight out. Honestly, gyms are like nightclubs except the lights are on and everyone is sober. When I actually went to gym, it was just to use the sauna. I like the sauna.

I’ve tried running, but I’ve realised that the only thing that can make me run is if someone is chasing me. When I used to try jogging around the neighbourhood, I would only run if I saw a car. Not because I thought someone would chase me, but because it might be someone who knew me, so I would step it up and prance along sprightly so it would look like I’m a super fresh runner lady. I’m not a super fresh runner lady.

My husband on the other hand is one of those kettle-belling, cross-fitting, trail-running types. He has more shoes than I do, because all of the above require different footwear. He also likes to eat kale and chia seeds, which I’m still convinced is not-real-food. To give him some credit, he does make a killer smoothie that tastes so good I don’t even know that the afore-mentioned not-real-food is in it. He also has a smoking hot body, which personally I don’t have any objections to.

The problem with my non sportsing life is that after two little kids and too many rusks, I don’t like the way my body feels anymore. I don’t like how breathless I get after playing three minutes of soccer with my boys. I don’t like how my four year old can outrun me on the beach, which is problematic when he’s running away from you stark naked, throwing his head back laughing and won’t come back no matter how much you shout. True story.

I especially don’t like it when I’m waving at another mom in the school parking lot and all I can feel is my chicken-wing arm-flab flapping around.

I need to exercise.

And so, I’ve started doing yoga. I LOVE yoga. There is no pumping dance music telling me to put my hands in the hair or push, push, push. Instead there is a strong, beautiful woman telling me to breathe, and who never shouts at me when I randomly fall over. I love not wearing exercise footwear that costs more than my kids’ school fees. I love that it’s a class so you have actually go at specific times and people watch you so you don’t just lie in the corner and have a nap which is what I would rather do (although I do think there’s a market there for some entrepreneur – a napping centre disguised as a gym). I love that there is always someone in the class who is more bendier than me, and also someone who falls over before me. I am not the worst, which is a refreshing change from the other sportsing I’ve done.


Because you know, mindfulness.

But there is something else yoga has given me that I love even more. As I bent over into the Wilted Flower pose or whatever that was that had me navel-gazing, I looked at my folded, wrinkled body, squishing over itself and dripping sweat, and do you know what I realized?


My belly made those babies.

I love my squishy belly. This belly held the two most beautiful gifts in my life. It brought both of my gorgeous, energetic, hilarious boys into the world. This belly isn’t hard, flat or ripped but you know what? I’ve eaten a lot of really, really good food. I’ve done more than just survive life. I have relished delicious meals with fantastic people. I’ve laughed until my stomach aches in kitchens, around dinner tables, and over braais.

Yoga has given me gratitude. I’m grateful for exercise and my health. I’m grateful for food and family. Yoga even made me grateful for my sweaty stomach.

I’m basically a yogi now, guys.


Say Something

I have big feet. Like, size 8 big feet. I seldom paint my toenails bright colours because there is just SO MUCH surface area. On a normal woman, pink toenails look sweet and summery. On me, it looks like I spilled paint on my feet.

I call them Roadmaps. Because of the veins, you know?

I call them Roadmaps.
Because of the veins, you know?

This, however, is not my primary problem. My main defect is how often I put my large foot in my even larger mouth. I’ll say something I’m not supposed to, or blurt out what everyone is thinking but has the good sense to keep quiet. I’ve spent many a dinner party getting kicked under the table by my husband who is basically telling me to STOP TALKING. I’ll ask someone who is buyer for a major clothing range if they really get their clothes from sweatshops, or talk about how women get paid 28% less then men for doing the same job.
As you can imagine, these conversations are about as fun as the mall the week before Christmas.

Knowing what to say and when to say it is quite the art, I am learning.
I recently had a lesson in this life skill, but not the way you may think.

You know they're good when you have tell people that they're good.

You know they’re good when you have tell people that they’re good.

Last weekend, I went to a baby shower. I know. You already feel sorry for me, but this one wasn’t that bad. There were no eat-melted-chocolates-out-of-nappies games, and the glowing mama-to-be didn’t have to guess what was inside every gift.
I even made choc chip cookies for the special event.
With an oven.
And ingredients.
From scratch.

I know. Who even is this amazing woman?

Anyway, at one point I was chatting to one of the few women there who did not have children. This isn’t by choice, and she has had some heart-breaking miscarriages. Despite risking putting one of my Big Feet into my notoriously Big Mouth, I decided to go with my gut instinct and I asked her, “How are these things for you?”

She told me that she only went to baby showers of people she really loved, as they were hard mornings. She told me how she didn’t want to be excluded from something important in their lives. But then, she turned to me with big eyes, and said, “You know, Jess, you are the first person who has ever asked me how I feel at baby showers. Thank you!”

I was quite surprised that it meant so much to her, and she told me more. Like when she had her miscarriage there were people who deliberately avoided her. When they saw her coming, they walked the other way. When she lost a baby, there were people who knew about it but never, ever mentioned the experience.

A few days later, I had almost the exact conversation when I dropped my son off at school. His teacher’s son tragically died a few weeks ago, and she shared with me how her daughter’s closest friends have just shut her out. They don’t phone, they don’t message, and this young girl is hurting so much more than necessary.

As I looked at the hurt and disappointment in this teacher’s eyes, I remembered the same look from my friend. It just hit me.

Say Something.

When someone you know has lost a loved one, or faces an exceptionally overwhelming situation, say Something. Please don’t pretend like you don’t know. Please don’t ignore the most real thing that is happening to them.

Just say Something. Even if it’s, “I’m so sorry for your loss. I don’t know what to else to say.”

Send a message, cook a meal, pop in for a visit.

They’ve already lost something, now they lose a friendship or a connection that brings joy and love into their lives? They’ve already had an experience that makes them feel different from you, now you’re adding distance in your relationship? Grief is a lonely experience, and if you don’t know what it feels like, don’t pretend like you do. But for goodness sake, don’t ignore them. They need you more than ever before.

I’ve heard Foot in Mouth Disease is highly contagious. And perhaps, like me, you won’t always get the timing right or the exact words when you open your mouth to say Something. You may even miss the mark completely and get a kick from someone under the table. But, honestly, I think that in most cases, Something is better than Nothing.

So say Something.

Counselling and Support
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