Home News S.Africa anti-apartheid activist Albertina Sisulu dies at 92

S.Africa anti-apartheid activist Albertina Sisulu dies at 92

Published on 03/06/2011

South African anti-apartheid activist Albertina Sisulu has died at the age of 92 at her home in Linden north of Johannesburg, Sapa news agency reported Thursday.

One of her daughters, Beryl, the country’s ambassador to Norway, confirmed her death, the news agency reported.

“I think I’m still in shock because I was talking to my sister who was in the same room with her and she said she was fine, and the next 20 minutes you hear that she passed away,” she was quoted as saying.

Born Nontsikelelo Thethiwe in Transkei on October 21, 1918, Sisulu was the wife of ANC leader Walter Sisulu, whom she married in 1944. The couple had five children.

A nurse by profession, she was introduced into South African politics by her Walter, who was a close friend of former president Nelson Mandela.

At the Sisulus’ wedding reception in Johannesburg in 1944, Mandela was the best man and Albertina’s friend Evelyn, Mandela’s first wife, was one of the bridesmaids.

Sisulu joined the ANC women’s league in 1948 and became the first woman to be arrested under the General Laws Amendment Act of 1963 when apartheid police couldn’t find her husband.

The act gave the police the power to hold suspects in detention for 90 days without charge and in Sisulu’s case she was placed in solitary confinement for almost two months.

Because she was cut off from all interaction with the outside world, she found out when she was released after two months that her husband was arrested along with 16 others in Lillies farm, Rivonia in Johannesburg and later sentenced to life imprisonment on Robben Island.

After her husband’s sentencing she was arrested a number of times and sentenced to house arrest, while all her children were also arrested and expelled from the country.

Reflecting on her years of hardships during the struggle, Sisulu once recalled: “Over the years I got used to prison, banning and detention. I did not mind going to jail myself and I had to learn to cope without Walter. But when my children went to jail, I felt that the Boers were breaking me at the knees.”

In 1955 she spent three weeks in jail because she refused to carry an identity document, before being acquitted with Mandela as her lawyer.

Sisulu was re-united with her husband in 1989.

Finally in April 1994, the couple observed the transition of their country in its first democratic elections. The couple became members of parliament in 1994 and retired in 1998 from parliament and politics.

In 2003 Sisulu’s husband died in her arms aged 90.