'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."

  • Born To Fish - 2011-06-12 09:22

    I think this paint is not to show his face with the new Corrupt ANC....

      Born To Fish - 2011-06-12 09:22


  • ObiterDictum - 2011-06-12 09:31

    This article is about the death and funeral of a much-loved mother and grandmother, and a strong and honest leader of the people. This is a very sad moment in SA history. This is not the time for mudslinging and negative political venting. Her family and much of the country are in pain right now and mourning the loss of an iconic woman. Surely you can wait to post your vitriol for a more appropriate moment? Come on! Have a heart. Show some respect. ~~ Such a lovely lady; may her beautiful soul rest in peace alongside the love of her life. ~~

      USSA - 2011-06-12 09:41

      Sad moment in SA history?????????????????????????????? When will the "country" be "SAD" about farm murders????? Tell your brothers to show some respect to the very people that feed them.

      Skuinskoek - 2011-06-12 09:48

      Indeed, if nothing else, she lived a dignified life, had a successful marriage and raised 5 children and extras, managed a career AND stayed positive despite trying times. If you don't agree that takes going and deserves respect, then rather just keep quiet - this is not the time for bitter petty comment. R.I.P. Masisulu

      Zoooma - 2011-06-12 10:02

      Thank-you @obiterdictum, there's a time and a place for everything. She was a lovely lady that did so much for her community. She may not have done anything for whites, but I respect what she stood for. Our current ANC leadership is nothing less than a disappointment. It will serve them well to look at Mama Sisulu, her husband Walter, and Nelson and follow their example, and perhaps then the ANC can start leading the country in the right direction.

      Marshall - 2011-06-12 12:18

      @ObiterDictum Thank you. I fully agree. If only South Africa had more leaders like her, we would be be in a far better place. The current and future leadership could learn some very valuable lessons from this great woman.

      Together - 2011-06-20 15:51

      I love this old man, and we need people of Ma Sisulu's calibre more than ever.

  • Rocketman - 2011-06-12 09:55

    Your negative and disrespectful comments are a sure sign that you live and contribute equally to a sick society. You should all be ashamed of yourself, your typically arrogant South African comments are fast becoming the laughing stock of the world... Go well Mama.

  • TheShwayze - 2011-06-12 10:02

    Albertina Sisulu was an important figure in bringing democracy to South Africa. I think that trivialising this great woman's death by hijacking the comment thread to vent about current political issues is at best crass, and at worst encourages an endemic negative attitude towards white South Africans that is the underlying basis for the BEE racism and farm invasions. Take your defeatist, pessimistic and ill-informed rants and shout them from a soap-box in your street, or phone up your friends in Australia to tell them all about it. This is not the place. Rest in peace, Albertina Sisulu.

      Razz-ma-Tazz - 2011-06-12 10:19

      @ The Shwayze. I agree and like your comment. Its because of Mama Sisulu that we have a democratic SA today. she surely doesn't condone the crap that happing in our country now. Why blame her and Mandela who is a world legend. why don't they blame theit fore fathers who engerneerd this mess that me and you have to pay a hefty price. SHAME ON YOU ALL. CHEAP MENTALITY. RIP Mama Sisulu.

  • Thandi van der Merwe - 2011-06-12 11:02

    How sad to see the comments on this page, so much for reconcilliation... For those of you who don't know who Albertina Sizulu was and presented: You are as uneducated and moronic as Malema and its the racists among you that give the likes of Malema all the fodder they need...

      Marshall - 2011-06-12 12:33

      @marco Do you need directions to the airport? Objectivity clearly does not feature in your thought process.

      S knot - 2011-06-12 17:58

      "Do you need directions to the airport", HOW original Marco, HA-HA-HA. Where did you learn that one? Now let me teach you the "race card trick" that you can pull and then we can laugh some more....

  • Shaughny Ventura - 2011-06-12 11:24

    I am horrified by the crass and unbelievably ignorant statements being made by people who obviously missed the comment by Thabo Makgoba. Do not judge lest ye yourself be judged and found wanting. You obviously did not know this woman of courage who was harshly dealt with in the past yet, like Nelson Mandela. was gracious enough to include ALL South Africans in their ideal for South Africa. Moreover let us remember her courage in speaking up during the Stompie Sepei saga. In an effort to being people of this country closer together let us never speak ill of the dead. Be they activist or farmer each deserves our respect on their passing.

      Marshall - 2011-06-12 12:34

      Hear Hear!! Very well put, thank you.

      S knot - 2011-06-12 18:15

      Shaunghny, and then he should have added "...therefore let no ANCYL league member and the likes ever utter the words 'kill the boer' ever again! Let every member of the ANC condemn the words 'kill the boer', as we commit to divulging respect towards each other." Then I would say Hear Hear. Catch a wake up!! You people are being decieved but words of snakes! I too, therefore, am horrified by your ignorant statements.

  • Thandi van der Merwe - 2011-06-12 12:10

    OK Marco, now go crawl back under the rock you come from and leave the rest of us to build a nation.... its your type that we can SO do without, but you know what, as Voltaire already said: I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it. You wanna talk about democracy, you wouldn't know it if it bit you in the arse! Now go look up 'Voltaire' you moron!

  • Thulani Thabethe - 2011-06-12 13:06

    @MY2C, U sound like an olda afrikaaner, die afrikaaner of die old time. u dont know to differentiate btwin gud and bad comment. guess ur 14 years old. u r betta dn die world? the world respects mandela for his grt job he did for all of us. go to gell.

      My2c - 2011-06-12 18:13

      Is ek nou 'n ou Afrikaner of 'n tiener, maak jou keuse en stop om jou self te weerspreek. Nou die feite.. 1. Ek het nooit iets slegs gese van Sisulu 2. Ek het nooit iets slegs gese van Mandela nie, en sal ook nooit. 3. Ek twyfel of die aNc soos dit vandag is, die visie is van hoe Mandela sy visie van die ANC gehad het toe hy dit gelei het. Vandaar my comment oor hoe pynvol dit moet wees om saam met 'n spul korupte aNc help mekaar ryk word kaders te sit en 'n vroom voetjie voor hou terwyl 'n GROOT figuur van die Ware struggle begrawe word. Wat 'n Afrikaner rassis betref, dit is ek beslis nie. Ek haat bloot korupte mense wat op die rug van die armeste van die armstes hul self verryk, en per toeval is daar baie van hulle tans in die aNc.

      zebracobra - 2011-06-12 19:28

      marco u have lot say,yes some inteligent whites help the world big time, but marco 4fathers dont belong 2 that class,their brains as stupid as like us blacks hence marco inheritage,thanks 2 those whites still helping 2day,marco u just white idiot we dont need in motherland Africa

  • Thulani Thabethe - 2011-06-12 13:12

    @MY2C, U sound like an old afrikaaner, die afrikaaner van die old times. u dont know how to differentiate btwin gud and bad comment. guess u r 14 years old.R u betta dn die world? the world respects mandela for his grt job he did for all of us. go to Hell. ONCE A RECIST ALWAYS A RECIST. U MAKE ME HATE U MORE AND MORE, NOT ONLY ME AND OTHER BLACKS WHO CAN FEEL THE PAIN.

      DoublySalmon - 2011-06-12 13:57

      I think Mandela is a terrorist, the courts found him guilty and the verdict still stands. Furthermore, it is obvious you can't spell because otherwise you would do so properly, please get help and enroll in an adult basic education course.

      Thandi van der Merwe - 2011-06-12 16:10

      Thulani, remember, there are always a few clowns to keep us amused, the rest of us can think... The whole "Mandela is a terrorist" thing is so last decade, can't even get a new angle there old smelly fish...

      S knot - 2011-06-12 18:36

      Yes Thulani, I agree. Lets hate people who wrong us...lets REALLY, REALLY hate them!!!! Spew your anger out and feel as if you want to kill them, like Ju-Ju!

      My2c - 2011-06-12 19:00

      Jy praat baie van haat. Ek haat die korupte daad, nie etniese groepe, rasse, of 'n spesifieke vel kleur nie, dit is so gister. Jy, aan die ander kant erken openlik jy haat my, meer en meer. Wel, as jy my haat omdat ek teen korupsie is, dan sê dit natuurlik heelwat van jou nê. Dan kan jy my maar my haat, ek het vrede in my gemoed. PS, wie is die racist?

      Johan - 2011-06-12 22:10

      Thulani, if I said I absolutely LOATHE winnie mandela you would surely call me an old afrikaaner racist hey? But if I tell you that I absolutely adore Lindiwe Mazibuko and loathe winnie mandela; what would that make me then? See MY2C's point, he hates the actions of the people in the ANC not the people, don't let hate cloud your judgment, you are smarter than that. And by the way Lindiwe IS REALLY TOPS!!!!!

  • Thulani Thabethe - 2011-06-12 13:24


  • Mdavu-zn - 2011-06-13 07:46

    That's unlike you old man. Since when now you fear things like this one? You really getting old Old man. You should have went there at whatever cost or amount of pain you felt really just to give respect to Mama Sisulu.

  • Liberated - 2011-06-13 09:51

    Marco, your comments are laughable. if that is your wish, then why not migrate and go live in a country that might never be ruled by a black person....the UK, Australia, Netherlands(there im sure you can even apply for ancestral citizenship). This is Africa, this is our continent. If you dont wanna be part of it, be our guest...and step. You should be mad at your forefathers for making the long trek across seas etc to lay claim on this land.If they hadnt done that,then you would be living in a country where a black person cannot "rule" over you. Its simple to say the least,if you dont like it here,take a hike. You have other options...for some of us this is our original birth place for our entire lineage. And we will work at it to make it better.

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