How do we honour our Gogo weSizwe?

2011-06-04 08:21

So, as we mourn, imagine for a moment another world where a kindly old man with a shock of white hair and the gentlest of smiles ever awaits his mate.

Our Grandmother of the Nation and the last of a generation of greats, Albertina Sisulu, took her leave on Thursday night. She passed away quickly, said her family, while watching ­television.

At 92 years old, MaSisulu was alert and ­interested, as always.

How shall we honour this icon? As with all our greats, who are now reaching their eighth or ninth decade, we must distil the lessons of their leadership for future generations.

Albertina Sisulu left us with so many that you scarcely know where to start. The first lesson of her life has to be that of empathy, spirituality and caring.

The young woman who came to ­Johannesburg from the Eastern Cape wanted to become a nun.

When she realised the strictures of that life, she decided on nursing as an alternative. While working as a nurse at the Johannesburg General Hospital, MaSisulu was conscientised.

She witnessed black patients dying unattended while beds for whites lay pristine and unused.

Later, while courting her beau, Walter Sisulu, she was politicised and became the only woman present when the ANC Youth League was formed.

And, of course, she and Walter leave us with ample lessons in love and family. While he was on Robben Island, MaSisulu worked tirelessly in the movement while bringing up their family.

That family includes the woman who may one day be South Africa’s president, Defence Minister ­Lindiwe Sisulu; the speaker of Parliament, Max Sisulu; and the businessman and former broadcaster Zwelakhe Sisulu.

How do we honour this woman, this spear, our Grandmother of the Nation? By nurturing a spirit of selflessness?

The young leaders of the ANC Youth League, now auctioning off their conference to the highest bidder, would do well to take pause and reflect about the woman who was there when their organisation was born.

What was it like then and what is it today?

Have we, as a country, invested in the nursing profession in the ways that MaSisulu may have dreamt of?

We can honour her by naming a ­bursary, a college or a street in her ample honour.

But better still, we can produce a generation of nurses of her mettle.

MaSisulu’s grandson, Shaka, suggests a way ­forward for his generation that must surely make his grandparents proud.

Cheesekids is his nascent movement aimed at teaching a new generation of young and privileged people to give back by using their labour, skills, time and resources.

Go to www.cheesekids.org.za and see what you can do to honour Gogo weSizwe.

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