Saturday, June 04, 2011

Mourning, Half-Mast Flags for South African Struggle Icon Albertina Sisulu

Mourning, half-mast flags for South African struggle icon Sisulu 2011-06-04 05:46:04
By Martin Williams

JOHANNESBURG, June 3 (Xinhua) -- The South African presidency on Friday declared national days of mourning from June 4, until the funeral of anti-apartheid struggle stalwart Albertina Sisulu, who died in Johannesburg on Thursday night aged 92.

In a statement to the South African Press Association (SAPA), the presidency said the mourning would last until the evening of the burial. The date and time of the burial had not been finalized. Details will be announced as soon as they are available.

The South African presidency said flags will be flown at half mast during this period. At the funeral, the South African National Defense Force will also provide military honors.

Minister in the South African Presidency Collins Chabane, is heading Sisulu’s funeral committee. South African President Jacob Zuma granted Sisulu an "official funeral category 1", reserved for distinguished persons, specifically designated by the president.

On Friday night, Zuma arrived Sisulu's home in Linden, north western Johannesburg to pay respect to her family."We got sad news that our mother had passed on," he told reporters outside the house.

According to SAPA, Zuma said Sisulu had had a strong presence in the South African parliament and was a leader who was there for the struggle against apartheid in South Africa. Also at the home, former South African president Thabo Mbeki described Sisulu’s death as a "personal loss."

"She brought us up... it is a personal loss and a loss to the country," he told journalists.

Also among those gathered to mourn Sisulu were Gwede Mantashe, secretary general of South Africa’s ruling African National Congress (ANC), and the party's treasurer general Mathews Phosa, as well as members of the ANC national executive committee.

Earlier on Friday, South Africans of all political persuasions paid tribute to Sisulu.

The ANC, of which Albertina Sisulu was a leading and long-standing member, said in a statement to SAPA that she combined political and parental guidance in her work against apartheid.

The ANC said she had a fulfilling life as a people's servant coupled with her unwavering commitment and leadership to the liberation of South Africa’s people.

Sisulu was a founder member of the United Democratic Front (UDF), formed in 1983 to lead the internal struggle against apartheid in South Africa while her husband Walter was in prison and many other struggles leaders were in exile abroad.

She was also a founder member of the Federation of South African Women in 1954.

Albertina Sisulu also guided young activists and leaders of organizations such as the Congress of South African Students, the South African Youth Congress, Azanian Students’Organization and other civic and women's organizations.

The ANC said she gave not only political guidance, but she was also a mother figure to all activists. Helen Zille, leader of South Africa’s official opposition Democratic Alliance said Sisulu symbolized "all that is strong and good" about South Africa.

Zille said Sisulu showed extraordinary fortitude, courage and perseverance in the most difficult times.

"She raised her family as a single parent while her husband was in prison. She was unwavering in her commitment to justice for all and the values that she lived are now embedded in our constitution."

The Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU), and alliance partner of the ANC, said Sisulu's death marks the passing a generation of "exceptional leaders" who represented the best values of the ANC and the revolutionary movement and did not put their own interests before those of the people.

COSATU said there has been no finer role model for succeeding generations of South Africans.

"She knew that joining the struggle was inviting arrest, torture and death for her and her family. Yet for the 25 years when her husband Walter was on Robben Island (prison), she never flinched, never displayed any sign of weakness," Cosatu said.

The trade union federation said Sisulu had devoted her life to caring for others and had played a pivotal role in the mobilization of women into the liberation struggle.

In 1955, she participated in the launch of South Africa’s Freedom Charter and in 1956 she was part of a famous women's march to the Union Buildings in Pretoai.

Nontsikelelo Albertina Sisulu (born Oct. 21, 1918) was in 2004 voted one of the top 100 greatest South Africans in a South African Broadcasting Corporation SABC poll.

In April 2004, when Mbeki was inaugurated as South African president, he referred to Sisulu and Adelaide Tambo, widow of former ANC president Oliver Tambo, along with his own mother Epainette Mbeki as "my mothers."

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