Walter & Albertina Sisulu Memorial in Johannesburg, Gauteng
The statue of Walter and Albertina Sisulu forms the centrepiece of a wedge-shaped piece of park ground, which was previously wasteland, and lies at the bustling end of Diagonal Street, together with some notice boards outlining the history of this area. The statute aptly depicts these two titans of the anti apartheid struggle as a devoted elderly couple who delighted in each other's company.
Sisulu was the coloured illegitimate son of a Xhosa (black) woman and a white foreman and was close friends with Mandela. So much so that Mandela served as his best man at his and Albertina’s wedding in 1944. He was also related to Mandela by marriage through Mandela’s first wife.
Walter held several influential positions in the ANC, including party secretary, and later, Deputy President and he played an important role in determining the military strategy of the ANC's military wing, Umkhonto weSizwe, 'The Spear of the Nation'. He was one of the Rivonia treason trialists and, like Mandela, was sentenced to life imprisonment on Robben Island, where he served 26 years.
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 and on 17 May 2003 he was given a special official funeral.
Albertina Sisulu was universally known as 'Ma Sisulu' as a mark of respect for her kind and motherly nature. She was also Xhosa stock and was forced at an early age to leave her home village in the Eastern Cape in order to support her younger brothers and sisters.
She trained as a nurse, and was serving as a midwife in the townships, where she met and married Walter.
She was a political activist in her own right and holds the doubtful distinction of being the first women imprisoned under the General Laws Amendment Act of 1963, which allowed the apartheid government to hold prisoners in detention without being charged. In subsequent years, she was in and out of the Johannesburg Women's Prison on a regular basis spending long periods in solitary confinement. She often used her nursing skills to provide medical care to fellow inmates and this included Winnie Mandela who was imprisoned and threatening to miscarry with her first pregnancy.
She served a term as an Member of Parliament in South Africa's first democratic government, and devoted herself in her 'retirement' to a range of community projects. She died in 2011, eight years after her husband.
The Sisulus had five biological children and four adopted children and founded a dynasty of political achievers.
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