MaSisulu turns 92

2010-10-21 09:52

Anti-apartheid veteran Albertina Sisulu turns 92 today.

Born in the Eastern Cape, Nontsikelelo Thethiwe took the name Albertina when she started at the Presbyterian mission school she attended as a young child.

According to, she later became responsible for caring for her siblings because her mother was sickly and her father was away at work.

She trained as a nurse in Johannesburg, and met her husband Walter Sisulu through a cousin and mutual friends.

Former president Nelson Mandela and his first wife Evelyn were best man and a bridesmaid at their wedding festivities in Johannesburg.

When Walter joined the ANC full time in 1947, Albertina was the family’s breadwinner.

She joined the ANC Women’s League in the late 40s and became active in the Federation of South African Women, which lobbied for equality.

She was also part of the organising team for the historic anti-pass protest of 1956, and for many years refused to get a pass book herself.

She became the first woman to be arrested under the General Laws Amendment Act of 1963 and faced detention for 90 days without charge, so they could get information on Walter who had gone into hiding.

He and Mandela were among the founding members of Mkhonto weSizwe.

While she was in detention she didn’t know that Walter and 16 others had been apprehended at Lilliesleaf farm.

Walter was later sentenced to life imprisonment on Robben Island.

She was banned for about 18 years altogether, which severely limited her movements and who she could talk to.

To support the family of five children, she made dresses and knitted jerseys for money, and relied on credit and the goodwill of friends.

She helped set up a cell to enable ANC members to leave the country, and was later elected to the leadership of the United Democratic Front, which espoused the then-banned ANC’s views and goals.

Her husband was released from prison in 1989, among the first wave of high profile activists to be freed.

In 1994, Albertina and Walter both became members of Parliament.

Walter passed away in May 2003 at the age of 90.

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