My tribute to Ma’Sisulu
If she were still alive, Nontsikelelo Albertina Sisulu would have turned 100 years on 21 October this year.
This struggle stalwart, selfless woman and iMbokodo, born and bred in the former Transkei in the Eastern Cape, was the wife to of the late struggle icon Walter Sisulu.
As we enter Women’s Month, with many activities lined up, I thought it important to highlight someone of the stature of Ma’Sisulu.
The struggles and sacrifices women like her endured become relatively insignificant in the face of other struggles, despite the key part they played in securing the fundamental freedoms subsequent generations enjoy today.
Like the late former President Nelson Mandela, she would have turned 100 this year, and not much is currently being said about her in the public domain.
Not taking anything away from Madiba, I do believe Ma’Sisulu should also be celebrated and honoured in the same way in what would have been a seminal year for celebrating both of them and their legacy.
Ma’Sisulu stood tall and fearless as she confronted the evil deeds of the apartheid government. She remained strong and steadfast at a time when torture, brutal killings, lengthy imprisonment or being sent to the gallows were a very real part of the political landscape.
Even with her husband’s incarceration for life on Robben Island after the Rivonia Trial, Ma’Sisulu never lost sight of the bigger picture – the liberation of the country.
I can only imagine the fear she may have had and the struggle she had to overcome afterbeing left to raise her five children on her own without any hope of a husband and father returning alive.
Indeed such a woman needs to be recognised and given the respect she deserves, no less than their men folk who fought their battles mainly behind bars.
We may not necessarily have another Ma’Sisulu in our midst, but the spirits of women like her live on!
For me one of Ma’Sisulu’s quotes concerning the role of women has much significance: “Women are the people who are going to relieve us from all this oppression and depression. The rent boycott that is happening in Soweto now is alive because of the women. It is the women who are on the street committees educating the people to stand up and protect each other.”
Although uttered at a different time, under different circumstances, its relevance continues to this day -- the need for women to stand up for themselves, relieving themselves of the shackles that hold them back.
We read and hear of women being battered, abused and killed by loved ones daily. It is up to them to stand up and fight, as no-one else will.
They have the likes of Ma’Sisulu to look up to, stand up against one of the most gruesome regimes in the world.