About Walter Sisulu
Walter Max Ulyate Sisulu (18 May 1912 – 5 May 2003)
was a South African anti-apartheid activist and member of the African National Congress (ANC), serving at times as Secretary-General and Deputy President of the organisation. He was jailed at Robben Island, where he served more than 25 years.
Family and Education
Sisulu was born in Engcobo in the Union of South Africa. His mother Alice Mase Sisulu was a Xhosa domestic worker and his father, Albert Victor Dickenson, was white. Dickenson worked in the Railway Department of the Cape Colony from 1903 to 1909 and was transferred to the Office of the Chief Magistrate in Umtata in 1910. [SA Who's Who reveals that he was the Attorney General of the Transvaal, Pretoria, from 1942. .. Sharon Doubell]
His mother was related to Evelyn Mase, Nelson Mandela's first wife. Dickenson didn't play a part in his son's upbringing, and the boy and his sister, Rosabella, were raised by his mother's family, who were descended from the Thembu clan. Educated in a local missionary school, he left in 1926 to find work. He moved to Johannesburg in 1928 and experienced a wide range of manual jobs. He married Albertina in 1944, Nelson Mandela was best man at their wedding. The couple had five children, and adopted four more. Sisulu's wife and children were also active in the struggle against apartheid. His son Zwelakhe Sisulu became a journalist and union leader, went on to found the New Nation (at the time South Africa's largest black newspaper), served as Nelson Mandela's press secretary, became CEO of the South African Broadcast Corporation, and later a business person. An adopted daughter, Beryl Rose Sisulu, served as ambassador from the Republic of South Africa to Norway.
He joined the ANC in 1940. In 1943, together with Nelson Mandela and Oliver Tambo, he joined the ANC Youth League, founded by Anton Lembede, of which he was initially the treasurer. He later distanced himself from Lembede after Lembede (died 1947) had ridiculed his parentage (Sisulu was the son of a white foreman). Sisulu was a brilliant political networker and had a prominent planning role in the militant Umkhonto we Sizwe ("Spear of the Nation"). He was made secretary general of the ANC in 1949, displacing the more passive older leadership, and held that post until 1954. He also joined the South African Communist Party. As a planner of the Defiance Campaign from 1952, he was arrested that year and given a suspended sentence. In 1953, he travelled to Europe, the USSR, Israel, and China as an ANC representative. He was jailed seven times in the next ten years, including five months in 1960, and was held under house arrest in 1962. At the Treason Trial (1956–1961), he was eventually sentenced to six years, but was released on bail pending his appeal. He went underground in 1963, resulting in his wife being the first woman arrested under the General Laws Amendment Act of 1963 (or "90-day clause"). He was caught at Rivonia on 11 July, along with 16 others. At the conclusion of the Rivonia Trial (1963–1964), he was sentenced to life imprisonment on 12 June 1964. With other senior ANC figures, he served the majority of his sentence onRobben Island.
Release from Prison
In October 1989, he was released after 26 years in prison, and in July 1991 was elected ANC deputy president at the ANC's first national conference after its unbanning the year before. He remained in the position until after South Africa's first democratic election in 1994.
In 1992, Walter Sisulu was awarded Isitwalandwe Seaparankoe, the highest honour granted by the ANC, for his contribution to the liberation struggle in South Africa. The government of India awarded him Padma Vibhushan in 1998. Walter Sisulu was given a "special official funeral" on 17 May 2003. In 2004 he was voted 33rd in the SABC3's Great South Africans. The Walter Sisulu National Botanic Garden and Walter Sisulu University are named after him.
- 1. ^ Obituary: Walter Sisulu - BBC News obituary, dated Monday, 5 May 2003
- 2. ^ Walter Sisulu - ANC Page ANC
- 3. ^ Walter Sisulu Walter Sisulu
- 4. ^ Walter Sisulu Walter Sisulu
- 5. ^ "SA mourns anti-apartheid icon ‘Ma’ Sisulu". The Namibian (NAMPA). 6 June 2011.
- 6. ^ Sapa and Mkhulu Mashau (2012-10-14). "Zwelakhe Sisulu laid to rest - South Africa | IOL News". IOL.co.za. Retrieved 2013-01-28.
- 7. ^ Hultman, Tami (2012-10-05). "South Africa: Zwelakhe Sisulu - a Remembrance". AllAfrica. Retrieved 2013-01-28.
- 8. ^ Female ambassadors luncheon http://www.saemboslo.no/documents/n4story1.pdf
- 9. ^ . JSTOR 2747759. Missing or empty |title= (help)
- I Will Go Singing: Walter Sisulu speaks of his life and the struggle for freedom in South Africa / In conversation with George M Houser and Herbert Shore (Cape Town: Robben Island Museum, 2000) This book is based on extensive interviews conducted with Sisulu in 1995. See George Houser
- Mandela, Nelson. (2010) ‘Conversations With Myself’, London:Macmillan.
18 May, 2002
Walter Sisulu celebrates his 90th birthday. One of the godfathers of the fight for equality in South Africa, he has fought long and hard against racism and prejudice, moving in and out of apartheid prisons, travelling the world and in 1992 was awarded the Isitwalandwe award by the ANC for his contribution to the struggle.
Here follows a transcription of Elinor Sisulu's lecture on the life of Walter Sisulu and his involvement in the ANC, presented on the 15th of May 2002 at Senate House, University of Witwatersrand. Elinor is his daughter-in-law and official biographer:
WALTER SISULU AND THE ANC
A public lecture by Elinor Sisulu
15 May 2002
University of the Witwatersrand
co-sponsored by The Wits History Workshop
The Institute for Global Dialogue
The South African Democracy Education Trust
This paper does not aim to be a comprehensive account of Walter Sisulu's life. It is impossible to condense ninety years and a political career of more than half a century into a half hour presentation. I have instead focused on the highlights of his political career and his relationship to the ANC.
Walter Sisulu was born in Qutubeni Village in the district of Engcobo in the Transkei on 18 May 1912. His mother, Alice Manse Sisulu, worked as a domestic worker in white households and boarding houses around the Transkei.
Alice was the daughter of Abraham Moyikwa Sisulu, a prosperous peasant farmer. Walter's biological father was a white magistrate who, while acknowledging parentage of Walter and his sibling Rosabella, played little part in their upbringing or later lives. Walter was raised as a Sisulu and he identified completely with his mother's family. The real paternal influence in Walter's life was his uncle Dyanti Hlakula, the head of the Hlakula/Sisulu clan and the head of Qutubeni village. Dyanti Hlakula and his extended family were Christians and Dyanti, who was a lay preacher of the Anglican Church, had strong links with the nearby All Saints Mission, where Walter was baptised.
Sourced by Marietjie Pienaar duPlessis
Ngcobo, South Africa
Transvaal, South Africa
Johannesburg, South Africa
Gauteng, South Africa