Mandela bids farewell to Sisulu

2011-06-11 10:49

Albertina Sisulu was a part of former president Nelson Mandela’s being, his wife Graca Michel read on behalf of her husband at Sisulu’s funeral in Soweto today.

“I want to bid farewell to a comrade and friend,” Michel read to the crowd at Orlando Stadium.

“You are part of my being, you and Walter ... I want to express my deep gratitude to you.”

In his message to Sisulu, Mandela said for the first time it was not him consoling his family but them consoling him.

He said he hoped the Sisulu and Mandela families would continue to stand shoulder-to-shoulder as they had done in the past.

“The years have taken the toll on us, one-by-one friends and comrades have passed on and it feels like a part of oneself has been cut off.”

He said Sisulu, his “beloved sister”, was the biggest loss.

He would have loved to have been at the funeral to pay his personal respects but it was “too painful to see you go”.

He said he could imagine Sisulu meeting other comrades who had gone before her and named a few such as her husband Walter Sisulu, former anti-apartheid politician Oliver Tambo and former activist Helen Joseph.

“Thank you for your love. Big hug to all our comrades. Your brother Madiba.”

Sisulu’s son and Speaker in Parliament, Max Sisulu, said his mother was the centre of her children’s lives.

“She was a dominant presence in our lies and it will be difficult to imagine life without her,” he said during a tribute to his mother on behalf of his siblings.

Sisulu’s grandson Ginyi Sisulu, paid tribute to his grandmother on behalf of all the grandchildren, saying: “She taught us to always behave in a dignified way … when she scolded us we were deeply hurt”.

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

Albertina Sisulu died aged 92 while watching TV at home on Thursday night.

In 1994 she was elected to the first democratic Parliament, which she served until retiring four years later.

She was a deputy president of the ANC Women’s League, a nurse and a midwife, and took part in the formation of the United Democratic Front, the 1956 anti-pass march to the Union Buildings and the launch of the Freedom Charter.

President Jacob Zuma granted Sisulu an “official funeral category 1”, reserved for distinguished persons, specifically designated by the president.

Her funeral was attended by family members, dignitaries, government officials and ANC heavyweights.

Amongst them were Zuma and his wife Nompumelelo Ntuli, Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe, former president Nelson Mandela’s wife Graca Michel, Winnie Madikizela-Mandela and ANC Youth League President Julius Malema.

Foreign dignitaries were also present. The Prime Minister of Lesotho Pakalitha Mosisili, Egyptian Prime Minister Essam Sharaf, Zimbabwean Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, former Zambian president Kenneth Kaunda and the Namibian National Assembly Speaker Theo-Ben Gurirab were among them.

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