Remembering a heroine – Albertina Sisulu

Energy Minister Jeff Radebe has called on women to draw strength from the life and legacy of Mama Albertina Sisulu.
“Mama Sisulu was… in her own right an activist for the total liberation of our people from the yoke of apartheid and emancipation of women,” Radebe said.
He was speaking in his capacity as the chairperson of the Inter-Ministerial Committee on the Centenaries of Mama Sisulu and President Nelson Mandela.
The event to mark MaSisulu’s 100th year birthday was held at Holy Cross Anglican Church in Orlando, Soweto. Born on 21 October 1918, the liberation heroine passed away on 5 June 2011 peacefully at home in Linden, Johannesburg.
Radebe praised MaSisulu for having waged a relentless struggle for political freedom and the emancipation of women.
“Today is an important occasion to celebrate Mama Sisulu not only through the tail end of her life in a democratic society, but also remembering the travails she endured during the dark days of apartheid.
“When we say Mama Sisulu is a woman fortitude, it is precisely because of the hardships she endured to raise her voice against the apartheid tyranny.”
Radebe said while democracy has made important strides on women emancipation, women of fortitude such as MaSisulu are still needed.
“Women of fortitude, iimbokodo, are women who must fearlessly fight for the radical socio-economic transformation of our country.”
Radebe also called on young people, both male and female, to learn from the lifelong stewardship of Mama Sisulu and her generation, who relentlessly fought for freedom and democracy.
“It is the duty of the youth to learn more about Mama Sisulu and possibly consider her historic role as part of their academic works, be it essays, thesis or dissertations.”
The commemoration of MaSisulu’s 100th year started with a visit to the graveyard where she and her husband, Walter Sisulu, are buried.
Family members laid a wreath, along with Radebe, who laid one on behalf of government and the people of South Africa. The ceremony was attended by senior government officials, family members and politicians.
From the graveyard, guests proceeded to the church, where a service was conducted in honour of MaSisulu.
Many remembered her as someone who was inspirational and who always wanted to be of service to others.
Congregant Dorothy Mthethwa thanked MaSisulu for the contribution she had made in their community.
“Mama loved all of us. She cared care about us. She was always willing to assist.”
According to Mthethwa, MaSisulu taught them many things. “She was a brave woman, who could face anything that came her way.”
Echoing the same sentiments was Cynthia Thabethe, who said she learnt a lot from MaSisulu. “I admired her courage. She was not afraid of anything. She groomed us as young women to be strong for our families.
From the church, guests proceeded to a nearby crèche that MaSisulu helped to establish. She also assisted with providing food for the children. The crèche has been renovated and now has 37 children.
From the crèche, guests proceeded to a nearby library established for children and a clinic where MaSisulu worked for many years with Dr Abu Baker.
Clinic manager Grace Mnisi said they have six professional nurses and two admin staff.
“We are proud that the clinic is moving with the times. We are now going paperless,” said Mnisi of the progress made by the clinic over the years.
This year marks the centenary of both Mandela and Sisulu’s births and government has set out a programme of commemorative events to mark the lives the struggle stalwarts.
Born in the former Transkie, Sisulu was not only involved in politics but committed to alleviating the hardships of the community through community work. Because of her passion for education, the Albertina Sisulu Multipurpose Centre has, among other things, built a school for children with special needs and an Early Childhood Development centre for learners from the age of three years.
Sisulu emerged as a powerful political figure in the 1950s, playing a significant role in major campaigns such as the 1956 Women’s March to the Union Buildings.
In 1964, she was left with the responsibility of raising her children alone when her husband, Walter Sisulu, was sentenced to life imprisonment on Robben Island.
Despite bannings, intense police prosecution, imprisonment as well as torture, detention and exile, she continued to work as a nurse.

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