'Too painful' for Madiba to attend

2011-06-12 08:08

Johannesburg - Children and old women jogged alongside as Albertina Sisulu's hearse made its way through Soweto's humble streets to her grand funeral.

Nelson Mandela called Sisulu "one of the greatest South Africans" for her role fighting apartheid and nurturing a new generation of leaders. She collapsed and died at her Johannesburg home on June 2 at the age of 92.

During Saturday's funeral before a crowd ranging from ordinary Sowetans to government leaders from as far away as Egypt, Sisulu's grandchildren recited the story of her life. She had not been expected to survive the Spanish influenza that was raging when she was born in 1918. She lived on to represent the anti-apartheid movement at home and abroad, and to champion the rights of women and children.

Mandela's tribute, read by his wife Graca Machel during the official funeral with military honours, set off a brief, thrilling rally in which the crowd sang Mandela's name. In his speech, Mandela listed several friends and colleagues he has lost in recent years. He said he felt Sisulu's loss especially deeply.

"I would have loved to be here today to pay my personal respects but it would be too painful for me to see you go," said Mandela, who at 92 rarely makes public appearances. The Mandelas on Saturday were marking the first anniversary of the death of Mandela's 13-year-old great-granddaughter Zenani, killed in a car crash on the way home from a soccer World Cup evening concert in Soweto.

Huge crowd

Crowds of mourners began arriving early for Sisulu's funeral, eventually filling about a quarter of a 40 000-seat soccer stadium.

Khesani Chauke, a 30-year-old Soweto resident, sat her four-year-old daughter in her lap, saying it was important for little Navelelo to be part of this moment in South African history.

"Even if she doesn't remember, I will tell her she was here," Chauke said.

Maureen Matlala, 39, boarded a bus on Friday night with neighbours from eastern South Africa to get to Soweto. Despite the all-night drive, she walked into the stadium crisp in the green, black and gold uniform of the ANC Women's League, an organization Sisulu once led.

"She's one of those women who made us who we are today," said Matlala, who grew up hearing stories of the 1956 march on Pretoria that Sisulu helped organise. The march united thousands of women of all races against the extension to women of pass laws that restricted the movement of black South Africans. The crowd cheered when a choir at Saturday's funeral sang the march's slogan - "you strike a woman, you strike a rock."

Sisulu's husband, former ANC secretary general Walter Sisulu, was given a similar funeral after his death in 2003. Their love endured 26 years of separation while he was imprisoned for his anti-apartheid activities. Albertina Sisulu was buried next to her husband after Saturday's funeral in a cemetery on the edge of Soweto.

Together forever

The couple's eldest son, Max, said at the funeral the two would never again be separated.

Walter Sisulu spent most of his time in prison on Robben Island alongside Mandela, whom he had brought into the ANC.

While her husband was in prison, Albertina Sisulu, a nurse, raised the couple's five children and several nieces and nephews, and was a mother figure to many other young South Africans, some of them relatives, some not.

She was a leader of the United Democratic Front, a key anti-apartheid coalition in the 1980s that brought together religious, labour and community development groups. Her activism led to months in jail and restrictions on her movements.

Younger Sisulus followed their parents into national service. Daughter Lindiwe Sisulu is defence minister. Max Sisulu is speaker of the National Assembly.

Albertina Sisulu also served in parliament, taking a seat after the first all-race elections in 1994. She nominated Mandela for the 1994 parliamentary vote that made him South Africa's first black president.

Soweto roots

While Albertina and Walter Sisulu lived their last years in a leafy Johannesburg neighbourhood reserved for whites under apartheid, Saturday's funeral cortege started at their old house in Soweto, the black township synonymous with resistance to apartheid.

The funeral site, Orlando Stadium, was upgraded and saw its capacity nearly doubled for the soccer World Cup last year. It was the stage for the opening concert of a tournament that allowed Soweto and the rest of South Africa to show the world how far they had come from a divided past.

In his eulogy, President Jacob Zuma said Albertina Sisulu struggled for the unity black and white South Africans showed during the World Cup.

"As a nation, we made our mother very proud," he said. "We learned from her that we are one people."

Walter Sisulu's 2003 funeral and the 2007 ceremonies for Adelaide Tambo, the widow of Oliver Tambo - who led the ANC in exile while Mandela was imprisoned - prompted soul-searching among South Africans fearful of stumbling into the ordinary pitfalls of corruption and mismanagement after the extraordinary feat of bringing a peaceful end to brutal racist rule. Albertina Sisulu's death has been followed by a similar debate over whether her model of sacrifice and discipline has been abandoned. In a contemporary twist, some of the discussion has been led on Twitter by a Sisulu grandson.

Anglican Archbishop Thabo Makgoba, in a sermon that closed Albertina Sisulu's funeral, earned cheers when he said corruption betrayed "the legacy for which her family has striven."

- AP
Read more on:    nelson mandela  |  albertina sisulu  |  jacob zuma  |  graca machel  |  max sisulu  |  walter sisulu  |  lindiwe sisulu  |  soweto  |  politics
NEXT ON NEWS24X
SHARE:

Read News24’s Comments Policy

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
30 comments
Add your comment
Comment 0 characters remaining
 

Inside News24

 
/News
 

3 must-do trail runs

If you love trail running, you have to put these on your bucket list.

 
 

Where were you when you last felt alive?

Climbing the world’s largest stone arch
Awesome extreme sports people
Watch: 2015 Absa Cape Epic route
Watch: Insane road bike skills!

Jobs in Cape Town [change area]

Property [change area]

Travel - Look, Book, Go!

Magical Massinga

Spend 5 nights at the gorgeous Massinga Beach Lodge in Mozambique and only pay for 4 from R13 220 per person sharing. Includes return flights, accommodation, transfers and romantic turndown. Book now!

Kalahari.com - shop online today

One day only! – 40% off Appliances!

Get 40% off 100’s of appliances at kalahari.com. While stocks last. Shop now!

Seen something you like in our catalogue?

Find the perfect gift and save up to R5000 – As seen on the catalogue. Hurry and shop now!

Save up to R1000 on Hisense smartphones!

View the large range of Hisense smartphones. Buy today and save up to R1000!

Toys 4 for the price of 3

Buy 4 toys and get the cheapest FREE! Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now!

Mind blowing prices – As seen on TV

Get mind blowing prices on 1000’s of products! Shop now.

OLX Free Classifieds [change area]

Samsung Galaxy s4

Mobile, Cell Phones in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 24

Best bargain in big bay

Real Estate, Houses - Apartments for Sale in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

VW Golf 6, 1.6 Trendline (Excellent condition)

Vehicles, Cars in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

Horoscopes
Aquarius
Aquarius

You may prefer to be in charge because then you can call the shots. You are not as flexible as you like to make out to be and you...read more

There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.
 
English
Afrikaans
isiZulu

Hello 

Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.


Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Settings

Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.








Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.