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Walter Sissulu

Walter Sissulu

Introduction

About

WALTER SISSULU

A Beacon of Resistance and Resilience in the Struggle Against Apartheid

Walter Max Ulyate Sisulu, an icon of the South African anti-apartheid movement, was born on May 18, 1912, in Ngcobo, in what is now the Eastern Cape province of South Africa. His exact birthdate was uncertain, a common occurrence at the time, but he celebrated it on May 18th. His mother, Alice Mase Sisulu, was a Xhosa domestic worker, while his father, Albert Victor Dickinson, was a white civil servant and magistrate. Despite being of mixed race, Sisulu strongly identified as black and as Xhosa. Raised by his mother's family, who were descendants of the Thembu clan, he had a close relationship with his uncle Dyantyi Hlakula, who oversaw his initiation into Xhosa culture.

Sisulu's early life was marked by hardship and the struggle to make ends meet. Leaving school in his mid-teens, he sought employment in Johannesburg, where he held various jobs, including as a bank teller, gold miner, domestic worker, and baker. His commitment to organizing his fellow workers led to his dismissal from a bakery job.

In 1939, Sisulu founded Sitha Investments, aimed at helping black and Indian people purchase houses, thus becoming a pioneer in black-owned real estate in South Africa.

His entry into politics came in 1940 when he joined the African National Congress (ANC), which had been founded the year of his birth. It was during this time that he met Nelson Mandela, with whom he formed a lifelong partnership in the struggle against apartheid. Sisulu played a crucial role in the ANC Youth League, advocating for a more militant stance against apartheid policies. He was elected as ANC Secretary-General in 1949, marking the beginning of his leadership within the organization.

The 1952 Defiance Campaign, organized by Sisulu and others, was a pivotal moment in the anti-apartheid struggle. Despite facing arrests and imprisonment, Sisulu remained undeterred in his activism. He was also active in the South African Communist Party, working covertly to advance the liberation cause.

As the apartheid regime intensified its oppression, Sisulu, along with Nelson Mandela, played a key role in the formation of Umkhonto we Sizwe (MK), the armed wing of the ANC. Despite his commitment to peaceful protest, Sisulu recognized the necessity of armed struggle in the face of increasing state brutality.

His activism led to multiple arrests and periods of detention, culminating in his arrest during the Rivonia Trial in 1963. Found guilty of sabotage, he was sentenced to life imprisonment alongside Mandela and others. Despite the harsh conditions of his incarceration, Sisulu remained resolute in his commitment to the struggle for freedom and equality.

Released from prison in 1989, Sisulu continued his activism, playing a crucial role in the negotiations that led to the end of apartheid. He declined to hold public office but remained an influential figure within the ANC until his death.

Walter Sisulu passed away on May 5, 2003, just shy of his 91st birthday, leaving behind a legacy of courage, resilience, and unwavering dedication to the cause of freedom. His contributions to the anti-apartheid movement earned him numerous accolades, including the highest honor of the ANC, the Isitwalandwe Seaparankoe, and the Padma Vibhushan from the government of India. His name lives on through institutions like the Walter Sisulu National Botanic Garden and Walter Sisulu University, ensuring that his memory continues to inspire future generations in the fight against injustice and oppression.


Reference:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Walter_Sisulu

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