Mourners continue arriving at Sisulu home

2011-06-04 07:36

A solemn-looking Winnie Madikizela-Mandela arrived at Albertina Sisulu’s Joburg home yesterday to pay her respects to the ANC stalwart’s family.

Madikizela-Mandela was dropped off by her driver outside the house and bodyguards tried to keep the growing media contingent at bay.

Members of Gauteng’s mayoral contingent arrived at around the same time in a minibus and were among the many people who had streamed to the house to pay their respects to Sisulu’s family, after her death at the age of 92 while watching TV at her home in Linden on Thursday night.

Among them were United Democratic Movement leader Bantu Holomisa, ANC spokesperson Jackson Mthembu, former idols judge Mara Louw and Sophie Williams De Bruyn, who led the 1956 women’s march with Sisulu.

People from the Linden neighbourhood brought flowers to the Sisulu family home and paid their respects while health service group Netcare and the family provided snacks and refreshments for the reporters and public gathered outside.

A marquee was set up in the front garden for a prayer meeting to be held last night after an announcement earlier that there would be such a meeting every night between 6pm and 7pm.

Sisulu’s son Lungi Sisulu said his mother’s door was always open to the neighbourhood.

“There was always food and drink for them,” he said.

Earlier yesterday, Minister in the Presidency Collins Chabane said Sisulu would get a national special official funeral.
The decision was made by President Jacob Zuma in consultation with the Sisulu family.

She would not receive a state funeral, as this was reserved for presidents and former presidents.

National special official funerals were permissible for deputy presidents, ministers, and certain officials and individuals.

Chabane visited the Sisulu family to extend condolences on behalf of the Cabinet.

Lungi Sisulu said the family was “faring well”.

“It’s been very hard. We are still trying to soak it in,” he said. “We were blessed that she lived to the age that she did.” Sisulu’s husband Walter, a former ANC deputy president, died in 2003.

“We are happy she went peacefully. She was not in pain and it was quick.” He had fond memories of his mother.

“She was always loving.” Her children, speaker in Parliament Max Sisulu and his sister Defence Minister Lindiwe Sisulu, were also at the house to receive condolences.

Dali Tambo, the son of Oliver Tambo, was among those there to pay her tribute.

Tambo said Sisulu would be welcomed at the “pearly gates” of heaven by his mother Adelaide Tambo, with whom she had a special relationship, and the other struggle icons who had died before her.

Oliver Tambo, a former president of the ANC, died in 1993.

Albertina Sisulu was a deputy president of the ANC Women’s League.

She was also a nurse and a midwife, and took part in the formation of the United Democratic Front, the anti-pass march to the Union Buildings in 1956 and the launch of the Freedom Charter.

“She was truly the mother of the nation,” said Tambo.

In a statement, the ANC said she epitomised the struggles of the poor, the women and the disenfranchised. Not only had the family lost her, but the country had lost an irreplaceable leader. She embodied grace and humility,” the ANC said.

Sisulu’s grandson Shaka Sisulu tweeted memories of his grandmother throughout the morning.

“Thanks to all ur messages of love and support. My condolences go out to u all as well, she truly was everyone’s ma, gogo or koko. God Bless,” he wrote.

A steady stream of statements to the press paid tribute to Sisulu yesterday.

“She was our mother, our grandmother and someone who gave us support and guidance. We are deeply saddened by her passing,” said former president Nelson Mandela’s family spokesperson Chief Zwelivelile Mandela.

The Sisulus and Mandelas shared a bond in the liberation movement, and through family ties as Mandela’s first wife Evelyn, and Sisulu’s husband Walter, were cousins.

Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu said: “Her husband was imprisoned for more than 20 years, her children were harassed and detained, and she was herself banned for many, many years.

“But try as they might they could not break her spirit, they could not make her bitter, they could not defeat her love.” Tutu said it was people like Sisulu who had made the new South Africa.

President Jacob Zuma said she was one of the “foremost mothers of the nation and the last of the colossuses of the struggle for the liberation of South Africa”.

“While we mourn her loss, we must thank her most profoundly for the selfless service to all South Africans and humanity at large, for her generosity of spirit and for teaching the nation humility, respect for human dignity and compassion for the weak, the poor and the downtrodden.” 

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