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Biography of Nontsikelelo Albertina SISULU

South Africa > Politics : Nontsikelelo Albertina SISULU

Nontsikelelo Albertina SISULU
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Biography :

Nontsikelelo Albertina Sisulu (b. 21 October 1918),was an anti-apartheid activist, and the widow of the activist Walter Sisulu.
The long and difficult struggle in South Africa has produced many leaders who have displayed great courage and determination in the face of cruel persecution  . Albertina Sisulu has been in the forefront of the struggle for almost half a century and suffered cruel and vengeful persecution by the racist regime She -became a living symbol not only of the spirit of the great freedom movement but of the crucial role which women play in it.

Albertina Sisulu was one of the women who led thousands of women to the Union Buildings in Pretoria during the famous Women's March.

  Albertina Sisulu was born in the Transkei in 1918. She was the second child of Bonilizwe and Monica Thethiwe. Her mother's health deteriorated and at his deathbed in 1929 her father asked Albertina, who was then eleven years old, to look after her brothers and sisters.

Albertina had planned on becoming a nun, but decided to become a nurse instead in order to financially support her siblings in their studies. In 1944 she married Walter Sisulu. Her husband encouraged her to become involved in politics and social service. As a nurse, for instance, she introduced family planning in Orlando.

In 1955 Albertina joined the ANC Women's League. In 1956, together with Lilian Ngoyi, Helen Joseph and Amina Cachalia, she led thousands of women to the Union Buildings in Pretoria during the famous Women's March to protest against blacks being forced to carry the notorious passbooks. She was also one of the founding members of the United Democratic Movement (UDM).

When her husband was elected the first full-time secretary-general of the ANC, Albertina became the sole breadwinner of the family. She also functioned as a link between the ANC leaders in jail and those in exile. The Security Police harassed her constantly and she was restricted, banned, placed in house arrest or arrested and taken into custody – and sometimes kept in solitary confinement – many times.

The Sisulu's had five children – Max, Lungi, Zwelake, Lindiwe en Nkuleko – and three adopted children. These were Walter's sister's children, Gerald and Beryl, and Samuel, who had grown close to Walter during his incarceration on Robben Island. All their children grew up in their house in Soweto. They moved to a new house in Linden in Johannesburg only four years before Walter's death.

Albertina passed on her commitment to the struggle to their children. The eldest son, Max, for instance, had been detained at the age of 17 and went into exile after his father had been arrested in Rivonia in 1963. His brother, Zwelake, was involved with the publication New Nation, which was placed under restriction on several occasions. He was also once detained without trial for two years.

For fifty years Albertina had committed herself to The Albertina Sisulu Foundation, which focused on the plight of small children and old people. She was recently honoured for her commitment to the struggle against apartheid and her social work among women and children when the World Peace Council in Basel, Switzerland, elected her president of the council.

In 2002 her daughter-in-law Elinor Sisulu published a biography of her parents-in-law under the title of Walter & Albertina Sisulu – In our lifetime, in which she tells the story of this remarkable couple.

Last update : 01/04/2008

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