Albertina, Walter reunited

2011-06-11 18:19

In life they were inseparable.

And yesterday, liberation icon ­Albertina Sisulu was reunited in death with her beloved husband and former ANC ­stalwart, Walter Sisulu.

Mourners came out in their numbers to pay tributes to Mama Sisulu at her official funeral in Soweto.

Her eldest son and Speaker of Parliament, Max, told mourners at Orlando stadium that his mother had “touched many lives” and that the family had been overwhelmed by the support they received in their time of mourning.

He said Mama Sisulu was a “tireless freedom fighter who fought for gender equality within (the liberation) movement”, saying she had also been a dominant presence in her children’s lives.

He described the liberation struggle heroine, who was a nurse, as a midwife who delivered many children in clinics and homes.

“During her lifetime, mama touched and shaped many lives.

Mama touched people far beyond her family, her ­community and the ANC.

As we are ­observing here, South Africans across the political spectrum and the international community (were touched by her).”

He also spoke fondly about the time Albertina and Walter spent together.

Max said: “The wonderful love story of mama and tata has now come full ­circle as mama joins her departed ­husband Walter, never to be separated again.

“As children growing up we learnt from very early in life that we had to share our parents, not only with the ­extended family, but with the ­community, the political movement and the nation as a whole.”

Former president Nelson Mandela, through his wife Graça Machel, said that Mama Sisulu had been more than a comrade and had become a part of his own being.

Mandela described Sisulu as one of the greatest South Africans, saying she provided leadership and exercised power “with quietness”.

He thanked Mama Sisulu for caring for his own children “as though they came from the same womb as your own”.

Mandela also described the emotional anguish he has experienced with the passing of his generation of liberation fighters.

“Years have taken the toll as one by one friends and comrades pass on. ­

Every time it feels as if a part of oneself is being cut off. None of these cuts would have been more painful as the loss of this dear friend, you, my beloved sister,” he said.

President Jacob Zuma, who delivered the eulogy, described Mama ­Sisulu as an “outstanding patriot whose name has become synonymous with our struggle for freedom, justice, ­human rights and human dignity”.

He described the 92-year-old former United Democratic Front co-president as a leader in her own right.

“We are laying to rest a stalwart and mother of the nation, who combined resilience and fortitude in fighting ­colonial oppression and apartheid, with compassion for the poor and the ­downtrodden.

“We are bidding farewell to a national heroine who produced many cadres of the liberation movement, and shaped our political thought and action in many ways,” Zuma said.

She had taught South Africans to rise above political differences and to work for the common good, he said.

Albertina and Walter were married in July 1944 and remained the apples of each others’ eyes until Walter’s death in 2003.

Theirs has been dubbed one of the greatest South African love ­stories.

Sisulu joined her husband in Newclare cemetery’s beautiful Garden of Remembrance.

She is survived by seven children, 25 grandchildren and 14 great-grand­children.

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