¡V by Representative Seraki Matsebe


July 2018, South Africa was celebrating the centenary birthday of the first democratically elected President of South Africa.

Madiba as famously known ,was a humanist who was not only one of the former struggle heroes that fought for the freedom of all South Africans, but was regarded by the international community as a world leader who advocated for unity and tolerance, among many other commendable commitments that he was well known for. As we celebrate what would have been the former president¡¦s 100th birthday, we remember his work through the theme: ¡§Be The Legacy¡¨.  


Happy 100 Birthday Mama Albertina Sisulu


On 9 August the country commemorated the 1956 Women¡¦s March under the theme: ¡§100 Years of Albertina Sisulu, Woman of Fortitude: Women United in Moving South Africa Forward¡¨.

The iconic march saw 20 000 women march to the Union Building to protest against the discriminatory pass laws. This march has been celebrated since 1995 as Women¡¦s Day to recognise the important role political activism by women played during the struggle for liberation against colonisation and apartheid.

The Mama Sisulu¡¦s centenary celebration formed a core thrust of Women¡¦s Month which is August as we paid tribute to her and the many women leaders of her generation. Mama Sisulu was one of the organisers of the anti-pass Women¡¦s March in 1956 and played a key role in its planning.

21 October 2018, South Africa and the world celebrate centenary birthday of a greatest leader who fought so gallantly against Apartheid and all forms of discrimination which led to creation of a non-racial, non-sexist democratic South Africa, united in its diversity.



She epitomises the saying: ¡§When you strike a woman, you strike a rock.¡¨ In the 80s she co-founded the United Democratic Front which joined the multitude of anti-apartheid groups under one umbrella. She was elected one of its co-presidents from her jail cell.

The Bantu Women's League was the first women's organisation in South Africa. It was started in 1918 by Dr Charlotte Maxeke to spearhead protests such as the one against the carrying of passes by black women.

The spirit of 1956 and the formation of the Bantu Women¡¦s League inspire women today who face challenges such as gender-based violence and economic emancipation for women.


¡§There can be no greater gift than that of giving one¡¦s time and energy to helping others without expecting anything in return.¡¨ Nelson Mandela


Albertina Sisulu was a political activist and nurse and one of the most important leaders of anti-Apartheid resistance in South Africa. She is often referred to as the `Mother of the Nation¡¦. She acted on her ideal of human rights throughout her life, assisted by her husband and fellow activist, the late Walter Sisulu (1912-2003).

With the help of her activist husband Walter, she attended the first conference of the ANC Youth League where Albertina Sisulu was the only women present. In 1948 she joined the ANC Women¡¦s League and in the 1950s she began to assume a leadership role ¡V both in the ANC and in the Federation of South African Women (FEDSAW).  She was one of the organizers of the historic anti-pass Women¡¦s March in 1956 and opposed inferior `Bantu¡¦ education. Her home in Orlando West in Soweto was used as a classroom for alternative education until a law was passed against it.

Both Albertina and her husband were jailed several times for their political activities and she was constantly harassed by the Security Police. 

In the 1960s the ANC moved toward the armed struggle. Umkhonto we Sizwe (the ANC's armed wing) was formed Walter Sisulu and Nelson Mandela in 1961. Walter was responsible for framing the organizational units of the National High Command, Regional Commands, Local Commands and cells.

But in 1963 while he was awaiting the outcome of an appeal against a 6 year sentence, Walter  decided to forfeit bail, and to going underground. Apartheid Security Police visited Walter Sisulu's house and found that he had fled. Soon afterwards they arrested Albertina and her young son Zwelakhe. She became the first women to be arrested under the General Laws Amendment Act.  The Act gave the police the power to hold suspects in detention for 90 days without charging them and in Albertina¡¦s case she was placed in solitary confinement incommunicado for almost two months while the Security Branch looked for her husband. 

During this time the Security Police taunted her psychologically. She described one of the cruel forms of torture used by her captors - they would come and tell her lies. They told her for example that one of her children was seriously ill, and that her husband was dying. Because Albertina was cut off from all interaction with the outside world she had no idea that the police had raided Liliesleaf Farm in Rivonia and had arrested her husband and 16 others including Nelson Mandela. She only found out three weeks after she was released from detention.

Just under a year later the Rivonia trial concluded. Six of the accused were sentenced to life imprisonment on Robben Island. Walter and Nelson Mandela were some of them.

Note:Denis Goldberg went to Pretoria Central Prison instead of Robben Island (at that time the only security wing for white political prisoners in South Africa) where he served 22 years.

As Walter and his co-accused left the courtroom, Albertina Sisulu, some ANC Women¡¦s League members and other supporters rushed out to form a guard of honour to meet the men. The court officials turned them away, but they sang ¡¥Nkosi Sikele i¡¦Afrika¡¦ in Church Square in Pretoria in solidarity and mourning.

For her activism Sisulu was put in detained and put in solitary confinement again in 1981 and in 1985. She also suffered bannings and house arrest, but still managed to keep links between jailed members of the ANC and those in exile. 

In 1983 Albertina was elected co-president of the United Democratic Front (UDF), and in June 1989, the government finally granted her a passport.  The following month she led a delegation of UDF leaders to Europe and the United States. She met the British Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher and the American President, George Bush Snr. In October 1989, the last restrictions on the Sisulu family were lifted and Walter was released from Robben Island.

In 1994, Albertina Sisulu served in the first democratically elected Parliament. She and her husband and son Zwelakhe have won numerous humanitarian awards. On the 2 June 2011 she died at her Linden home in Johannesburg, aged 92.