Firstly, I would like to acknowledge and greet The Sisulu Family;

Greetings also to -

The Minister of Science & Technology, Mrs Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane;

The Executive Mayor of Cape Town, Ms Patricia de Lille;

The Director for Public Advocacy & Parliamentary Liaison, the Reverend Canon Desmond Lambrechts

Honourable Members of Parliament;

Our beloved Veterans;

All the beautiful young people

All Protocol Observed!

 

GOOD EVENING/MOLWENI / SANIBONANI / SALAAMA-LAKOM / GOIENAND

 

I’d like to thank Minister Kubayi-Ngubane and the organisers of this auspicious occasion, the Centenary birth of Mama Albertina Nontsikelelo Sisulu; for the privilege of inviting me, to share my observations with you today.  I accepted the invitation in all humility and with the full realisation, that this was someone whose name is synonymous with Soweto, with the struggles of the people of Orlando, of Kliptown, the origins of the Freedom Charter. An Icon of our country – a mother,  grandmother,  a great grandmother,  a professional,  a midwife and health worker, a mentor, an ardent organiser and strategist. A leader of note, an outstanding revolutionary and a much – loved - leader of the people. Indeed she was a WOMAN OF FORTITUDE. What a pride, what an honour to have been invited to present this centenary lecture.

I am sure Program Director that many present here tonight are familiar with the life and times of Mama Sisulu, so I prefer to focus on the legacy of Mama Albertina, who opted to dedicate herself to a free, liberated South Africa - of today and that of the future.

 

In the Biography “Walter and Albertina Sisulu, In our Life Time” Authored painstakingly and lovingly, by their daughter in law, Elinor Sisulu, Elinor writes in the PROLOGUE of the book: Biography is by definition an intrusive process, especially the genre of biography that seeks to interweave the personal and the political. Elinor goes on to say, I have been fortunate to have two subjects who accepted that this intrusion is part of the process of telling their stories and who responded with frankness and openness that sometimes surprised me.

 

They provided guidance and encouragement throughout the process, and not once did they close the door, on any avenue of enquiry. My task was made easier by their recognition, of the value of their story, as a legacy for future generations. They regarded the telling of the story, as part of a continuing, commitment, to the youth who HOLD the future in their hands. It is a commitment best expressed in the words of Albertina Sisulu.

“We are each required, to walk our own road . . .  and then stop, assess what we have learned and share it with others”, she tells us.

 

“It is only in this way that the new generation can learn from those who have walked before them, so that they can take the journey forward after we can no longer continue. We can do no more than tell them our story – it is then up to them to make of it what they will.”

I regard myself immensely fortunate as one of the younger women of that generation, that have been enabled, to appreciate Mama’s finest qualities that is; of COURAGE, RESILIANCE AND PERSEVERANCE … and to have been working with, and been around her presence; to study and learn from her and to understand better, what it takes to be a servant of the people and a true cadre of the movement, which are lessons I have embraced and which we should pass on to our youth.

 

(I was narrating to a large, young, audience last Friday night, in Germiston, of how we went about our work in the movement during the early 50’s. Among the things I said was and, I suppose in the political climate of today and the life we live, it may not be popular or acceptable that in the course of the task we were given to do was, if you are told by your seniors, aka- leader, to ‘jump’- you would ask how ‘high’)?

 

I recall how Mama Albertina worked constantly, mobilising and organising for the women’s 1956 march to Pretoria. She understood the importance of working together with others, which was her passion; sharing ideas, exploring solutions as a collective, which she believed brought more effective results. Hence the August 9th demonstration against passes became one of the most iconic vivid protests of all time.

 

She never underestimated: The Power of Togetherness, which was demonstrated by the four women, you see in the famous image, magnified by the 20,000 that stood behind them. Mam Albertina believed that if you do not keep in touch with the will of those you lead, and then you are not, in the true sense, a leader. Perhaps a DESPOT, A DICTATOR but not a leader. A valuable lesson we should all emulate as we work in our various teams, units, structures and organisations and against the backdrop of the past, difficult, dark, nine years – into a better future for our country.

 

Mam Albertina, like her sister comrades, was happy in the knowledge that the four women at the forefront of the 1956 march; an African, an Indian a White and a Colored woman, was NO ACCIDENT:  It was the unprecedented VISION of Mama Albertina and the founding mothers of the Federation of South African Women and its liberation movement, a vision of UNITY. Of a truly liberated future UNITED SOUTH AFRICA, regardless of race, colour or creed. But what do we have to-day???  What has happened to that noble vision?

 

So we have to ask of ourselves whether after all her sacrifices have we really learnt anything from Ma Sisulu’s life.

 

Whether we have aspired to the same ideals as she did, of building a society in which all South Africans will be able to walk tall, without fear, assured of their

Inalienable right to human dignity, of access to opportunities and being a nation at peace with itself.

 

Mam Albertina was jailed on many occasions by the apartheid regime, because of her unyielding participation in political activities, interrupting her responsibilities as a mother, to take care of her family in the absence of her politically active husband.

 

She, however, regarded these interferences as just another irritation in her life, in her pursuit of justice and liberation for all the people of our country and ever gave sway; she continued relentlessly to work towards a free non-racial, non-sexist South Africa. A South Africa who belonged to all who live in it.

 

Our youth can draw inspiration and strength, to confront vigorously but responsibly, the many social scourges of today, such as inequality, unemployment, poverty, crime, the terrible systemic abuse against women and children. The breaking down of our health facilities and the ghastly deaths of hundreds of mental patients is a huge stain on our nations psyche. How was it allowed to happen? How would Mama Albertina, have reacted if she was alive today. She, the nurse, the strong but kind, gentle, generous, and compassionate. A daughter, sister and mother, she would never have allowed it to happen to the most vulnerable and sat-by whilst the perpetrators go unpunished.

 

Mam Albertina devoted the rest of her life as a public servant … long after she retired from Parliament, she continued to tend to the needs of the people she loved, and founded the Albertina Sisulu Centre in Soweto, to help and improve the lives of children with special educational needs. How many of us Find a Purpose to carry on serving people who are in need of sustenance, comfort and encouragement; even long after our twilight years,  

 

This Centenary Lecture does not altogether reflect the complete ‘life and times’ of Mam Albertina Sisulu’s, not by a long “shot” but valuable lessons can be drawn from it and can serve as a compass that can guide us through the many difficult choices and decisions we have to make in ensuring a better life for all our citizens.

 

Mam Albertina never allowed herself to rest on her laurels. She led from the front with examples of enormous sacrifice, determination and boldness, but as much as she was a feminist, an activist, she had absolute dignity, grace and good taste, always immaculately dressed, but remained humble and ever focused on the next mission’s bidding.

 

As I said before, there is far too much violence against women and children in our country. It is endemic and it is deeply disturbing. The courage and bravery of the young women who mobilised the recent (Hashtag) #TotalShutdown march is so admirable.

 

I also imagined Mam Albertina’s beautiful tender smile of pride and encouragement, when President Cyril Ramaphosa abandoned his busy schedule to listen to the young women’s grievances and to receive the memorandum of the (Hashtag) #TotalShutdown demonstrators. Unlike Strydom who ran away from us in 1956. He didn’t have the courage to face us (smile). Today may our women’s voices be heard and may our government heed the cry of our women!

 

Mam Albertina would want nothing less than for the women of South Africa to live in friendship, peace and harmony with their husbands, their partners and anyone whom they care to be in a relationship with, without having to be in fear and distress.

 

If we have learnt anything from Mam Albertina, it is that women should be valued and treasured in any society. They add huge value to all of us and to our nation’s endeavours. We can see that Mam Albertina and her generation have imbued that spirit of unity in action in fighting for women’s causes today. Long may her spirit live in us and embolden us. Long live the Spirit of Mama Albertina long live!

Malibongwe!!

I thank you.