Day 264

A hero is an ordinary individual who finds the strength to persevere and endure in spite of overwhelming obstacles.  – Christopher Reeve

It’s 7: 04 PM on day 264 of my journey towards independence and I’ve managed to brush my teeth, feed myself scrambled eggs for breakfast, tweet about my Clean Water For All Campaign –no luck – make sandwiches for the people in our housekeeper’s neighborhood (if you have no idea what I am talking about refer to ‘Day 184’) – everything went according to plan and on time we were able to make enough sandwiches for everybody – I can sleep very well at night knowing that 12 people will have 4 meals 🙂 – feed myself rice and curry for lunch, open a packet of chips – today was the first time I didn’t have to use my teeth to help open it – I am SO happy 🙂 – watch TV, feed myself a chicken nugget sandwich for dinner and brush my teeth once more.

Today we awoke to the heartbreaking news that Albertina Sisulu – wife of anti-apartheid activist Walter Sisulu – had passed and in honor of that I would like to share with you a snapshot of her life. Take a look:

Albertina Sisulu: Mother of the Nation (21 October 1918 – 2 June 2011)

1918 On 21 October, Albertina was born in the Transkei.
Her early schooling career began at Xolobe in the Eastern Cape. She later enrolled at Presbyterian missionary school

1936 She attended high school at the Mariazeli College on a scholarship arranged by local Roman Catholic Mission

1939 She received her Junior certificate and was accepted as a trainee nurse at the Johannesburg General Hospital, known then as the Johannesburg Non-European Hospital

1941 She met Walter Sisulu, who was the brother of a fellow nurse

1944 On 15 July she married Walter Sisulu. Their marriage lasted until his death in 2003

1945 On 23 August, their first child, Max Vuyisile born

1948 Their second son, Mlungusi was born

1949 She joined the ANC Women’s League

1950 Their third son, Zwelakhe was born on 17 December

1954 In May, the Sisulu’s first daughter, Lindiwe (meaning, ‘we have waited for you’) was born.
Sisulu was a founder member of the Federation of South African Women launched in protest against Bantu Education

1955 She joined the launching of the Freedom Charter in Kliptown

1956 On 9 August, she joined the march to the Union Buildings in Pretoria to protest pass laws extended to women

1957 On 9 October, their last child, a daughter, Nonkululeko (meaning ‘mother of freedom’) was born.

1958 On 21 October, she marched to Freedom Square in Sophiatown to protest forced removals. Was arrested with 1200 other women

1963 She was arrested under General Laws Amendment Act, Detained for 90 days at Langlaagte police station

1964 Her husband was jailed for life in the Rivonia Trial
Albertina was served with her first five year public ban, restricting her to her home and away from public gatherings

1967 On 20 August, the Sisulu’s first grandchild was born in Russia. Mlungisi is the son of Max and Mercy Vutela

1969 On 31 July, she was served with a second five-year ban confining her to her home on weekends and at night
She managed to complete matric through an adult education course

1972 In October, their second grandson, Linda Zizwe, was born to son Mlungisi and his wife, Sheila. (The couple ended up having two other children, Thulani and Ntsiki, named after Albertina)

1974 On 31 July, Albertina was issued with a third banning order, compelling her to report to Orlando police station every Wednesday and forbidden from traveling out of Orlando. The order also confined her to her home on holidays and at night

1975 In December, their grandchild, Xoliswa Ayanda, was born to daughter Lindiwe, and Xolile Guma

1976 On 14 June, Lindiwe Sisulu was arrested, detained and tortured for 11 months under the Terrorism Act

1977 In June, Lindiwe left South Africa for exile in Mozambique

1978 In December, Zwelakhe Sisulu married Zodwa Mdladlamba

1979 In May, Lindiwe Sisulu married Xolile Guma
On 1 August Sisulu was served with a two-year ban without house arrest but was allowed to attend church

1980 In January, another grandchild Moyikwa was born to Zwelakhe and Zodwa Sisulu. [The couple eventually had a second child, Zoya, born on 24 November 1982]
Albertina was denied permission to attend the funeral of Lillian Ngoyi, a significant woman leader in the struggle; and a friend and mentor.
On 29 December, Zwelakhe Sisulu, active in the media as President of Media Union, MWASA, was served with a three year banning order as part of a government crackdown on the media

1981 On 20 June, Zwelakhe was arrested under the Terrorism Act detained without trial and tortured. Released after 251 days in detention

1982 On 14 June, Albertina was arrested and released together with 250 mourners while attending memorial service of slain ANC representatives Petrus and Jabu Nzima who were assassinated by car bomb in Swaziland. June 15
She was served with a fifth banning order forbidding her from attending social and political meetings, or any place where students were being instructed. Unlike earlier restrictions, she was not confined to any particular magisterial district. The banning was effective for two years

1983 Albertina began working as a nurse with Dr. Abu Bakr Asvat in his mobile clinic offering mostly free medical assistance to the very poor. Together the started a crèche and feeding scheme
On 5 August 5, she was arrested and charged under the Supression of Communism Act for allegedly furthering the aims of the ANC through activities at the funeral of ANC Women’s League Veteran, Rose Mbele
She was given a four year sentence, which she appealed. The case was dismissed in 1987
On 20 August the UDF was launched in Cape Town. It was attended by between 12 and 15 thousand people and Albertina was elected as one of three Co-Presidents

1984 In January, PW Botha became Executive State President
In July Albertina and Walter’s adopted son, Jongomuzi was arrested under Section 29 of Internal Security Act. He was sentenced to five years in prison and sent to Robben Island
Albertina led a powerful UDF mass anti-apartheid demonstration and was arrested with other leaders and charged with conspiracy to overthrow the government. She was held in solitary confinement for almost a year
In August Mlungisi was arrested and detained for two weeks following national protests against the Tricameral parliamentary system

1985 On 3 May, bail was granted to Albertina at R 170 000
On 9 December, the treason charges were withdrawn. The government then declared state of emergency, allowing police to arrest without warrant, detain people indefinitely and without charge, without informing the next of kin
Media censorship was also extended under the emergency regulations. Several foreign correspondents were expelled from the country and local journalists detained

1986 Sisulu was one of the first to be restricted under state of emergency laws. She was required to stay indoors and not receive any visitors
Zwelakhe was detained in June 1986 for two years and adopted son, Jongumuzi was sentenced to five years on Robben Island
Grandson, Mlungisi was detained for nine months for participating in the Soweto student movement. (Three generations of the family were imprisoned at the same time)
In July British Foreign Secretary, Geoffrey Howe visited South Africa but failed to bridge the impasse. Britain then joined sanctions proposed by the European community. By October the US passed the Anti- Apartheid Act imposing financial sanctions on South Africa
In November Albertina’s brother, Reverend Elliot Thethiwe died

1987 In September, Albertina’s four year sentence in the Rose Mbele case dismissed on appeal

1988 In May, Nelson Mandela began discussions with the apartheid government
In July a Lenasia newspaper, The Indicator awarded the family with Newsmaker of the Year. The award was received by Zodwa and Sheila Sisulu
On 2 December Zwelakhe Sisulu was released from detention after 721 days
The Sisulu family received the Carter Menil Human Rights Award
Nelson Mandela was transferred to Victor Verster prison in Paarl
On 15 July Walter was awarded India’s Padma Vibushan award for his role in the struggle

1989 On 27 January, the “people’s doctor” Abu Bakr Asvat was shot and killed in his Rockville surgery
In March Mandela met with PW Botha
In May, Albertina received an invitation by George Bush Snr. to visit him and members of his administration
In June, Albertina was issued with a 31-day passport and traveled on her first overseas trip. She visited Sweden, the U.K, France and the U.S. She stopped in Lusaka en route and met Max and Lindiwe
On 14 August, P.W. Botha resigned as state president
On 14 September, F.W. De Klerk was elected as state president
On 13 October, Albertina’s banning orders were lifted
On 15 October, Walter Sisulu returned home after serving 26 years on Robben Island

1990 On 2 February, F.W. De Klerk announced the unbanning of the ANC, PAC and SACP
On 11 February, Nelson Mandela was released from prison
On 1 June, Walter and Albertina Sisulu’s eldest son, Max, ended his 27 years of exile
On 9 August, Albertina was elected deputy president of the ANC Women’s League

1991 In February, the Group Areas Act, the Population Registration Act, and the Land Acts of 1913 and 1936 were wiped off the statute books
In July the ANC held its first national conference since it was banned in 1960
Nelson Mandela was unanimously elected President, Walter Sisulu Deputy President and OR Tambo, National Chairperson

1993 Chris Hani was assassinated on 10 April

1994 South Africa’s first democratic elections were held. On 10 May Nelson Mandela was sworn in as the first black president of the Republic of South Africa.
Albertina Sisulu was elected to parliament. She was also elected President of the World Peace Council
On 17 July Albertina and Walter celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary

1999 Albertina Sisulu retired as a member of South Africa’s first democratically elected parliament
On 14 May Walter Sisulu was presented with the title deed for his house
On 24 June Wits University honoured Walter and Albertina with honorary law doctorates

2001 The Walter Sisulu Bursary and training fund received an estimated grant of R800 000 from US Aid

2002 On 18 May Walter celebrated his 90th birthday at the Walter Sisulu Hall in Randburg
Freedom Square Memorial in Kliptown, Soweto, was renamed The Walter Sisulu Square
On 10 December Eleanor Sisulu’s biography, In our Lifetime was launched at Roodepoort.
At the Metropolitan Eastern Cape Awards in September, Beryl Simelane received the Legend Award on behalf of her father

2003 Walter Sisulu died on 5 May
In October the Albertina Sisulu Multi Purpose Resource Centre was opened on her birthday in Orlando West, Soweto.
In November the Walter Sisulu Paediatric centre was opened

2005 Walter Sisulu University for Technology & Science opened in the Eastern Cape

2006 On 6 March, Harry Belafonte presented Lindiwe and Nonkululeko with the Shared Interest’s awards at a function in New York
In August the 1956 Women’s march was re-enacted at the Union Buildings in Pretoria. Albertina delivered the keynote address

2007 In August the freeway linking Pretoria with the OR Tambo International Airport [R21 and R24], was renamed the Albertina Sisulu Freeway
An honorary doctorate degree was conferred on Albertina by the University of Johannesburg
In December UNISA conferred a degree in Literature and Philosophy on Albertina, in recognition for her role as a community leader and nurse
A Lifetime achievement was awarded by the Old Mutual, SABC and Sowetan Community Builder of the Year Awards

2008 In March, as part of the Mandela birthday celebrations, the “Walter and Albertina Sisulu: Parenting a Nation,” exhibition opened at Mandela House. The exhibition offered an intimate account of the private and political lives of the Sisulu family during the struggle against apartheid, and was opened by Nelson Mandela and Desmond Tutu
Her 90th birthday celebrations took place on 21 October at the Sandton Convention Centre. Sisulu will celebrated her birthday with members of the Sisulu, Mandela and Machel families at a gala lunch in Johannesburg

2009 Her 91st birthday celebrations were held at Sheikha Al Jalila House in Sunninghill, Johannesburg. The 2009 birthday celebrations marked the official opening of the Sheika Al Jalila House. Amongst the people who attended was Princess Haya Al Hussein of Dubai and Lungi Sisulu, President of the Walter Sisulu Paediatric Cardiac Centre for Africa (WSPCCA) and son of Albertina Sisulu. The house provides a home for the parents of the children being treated at the WSPCCA. These parents and their children sometimes travel across vast regions of the African continent to seek life-saving medical treatment for their children

2010 On 21 October, Albertina Sisulu celebrated her 92nd birthday by commemorating the 400th operation funded by the Walter Sisulu Paediatric Cardiac Foundation (WSPCF) since the organisation’s launch in 2003
The WSPCF is the largest philanthropic paediatric cardiac foundation in Africa, established as a living legacy to Mama’s late husband Walter Sisulu. It focuses on the delivery of life-saving intervention for underprivileged children with congenital heart disorders from across Africa. The 400th operation was done to baby Angel Grace, who hit the headlines just over a year ago when she was found, abandoned in a storm water drain in Kempton Park. Baby Grace’s surgery took place in 12 October 2010 at the Netcare Sunninghill Hospital, and she has made such a great recovery that she will able to share in person Mama Sisulu’s birthday celebrations. Guest speaker will be the Minister for Women, Children and Persons with Disabilities, Minister Noluthando Mayende-Sibiya.
Sisulu used this occasion of her birthday celebrations, to launch the 400 More initiative calling upon South Africans to continue helping the WSPCF with its good work, by raising an additional R60m to carry out a further 400 operations

2011 On 2 June, Albertina passed away at her Linden home in Johannesburg

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if you’ve given to my cause or you can’t give now, please help me by sharing my cause with others. You can tweet about it like my friend Stan Faryna. This is the tweet he uses: @Nisha360 is a brave, smart young woman trying to make a better world for us all. Please help her do an amazing thing.

Stan’s very sweet for saying so, but feel free to write what reflects you best.

Thanks to all my friends out there who are helping me make my dream come true: to make a better world for all of us!


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