What Ma Sisulu would want for SA women

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Struggle stalwart Sophie Williams-De Bruyn says the women of South Africa are under siege and live in fear of falling victim to crime and abuse.

Delivering a memorial lecture on Albertina Sisulu’s legacy as the country marks 100 years since her birth, Williams-De Bruyn said the late icon, who became affectionately known as Ma Sisulu throughout her lifetime and who dedicated her life to the fight for gender equality, would have wanted the women of South Africa to live without having to watch their backs in fear of becoming a statistic for gender-based violence.

Williams-De Bruyn said this to a packed St George's Cathedral in Cape Town in a lecture that was hosted by Science and Technology Minister Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane on Tuesday night.


She said the sight of President Cyril Ramaphosa abandoning his busy schedule earlier this month to accept a memorandum from women who marched to the Union Buildings under #TotalShutDown to make a statement against gender-based violence brought back memories of the historic march she was part of, where over 20 000 women took their protest against pass laws and bantu education to the steps of the Union Buildings on 9 August 1956.

“I imagined Mama Albertina’s beautiful smile of pride and encouragement when our President Cyril Ramaphosa abandoned his busy schedule to listen to the young women’s grievances and to receive the memorandum of the #TotalShutDown demonstrators unlike [apartheid Prime Minister JG Stijdom], who ran away from us in 1956. He didn’t have the courage to face us.

“Today, may our women’s voices be heard. May our government heed the cry of our women. Ma Sisulu would want nothing less than for the women of South Africa to live in friendship, in peace and harmony with their husbands, their partners and anyone whom they care to be in a relationship with without having to fear or to be in distress,” she said.

Reflect on the life, times of Ma Sisulu


She said South Africans should reflect on the life and times of Ma Sisulu and draw a lesson from her work. She said Ma Sisulu’s hard work and selflessness was testament of a woman of fortitude, whose life purpose was to be a servant of her people.

These, Williams-De Bruyn said, were qualities that she embraced, and that everyone, especially young people of today, should embrace.

Speaking for the Sisulu family, author and social activist Elinor Sisulu thanked the Minister and the department for organising the commemorative lecture.

Story of Ma Sisulu to live on 

Elinor Sisulu, who is married to former Speaker of Parliament Max Sisulu, said it is her hope that the story of Ma Sisulu would live on through her legacy and that young people and generations to come would write essays to keep her story alive.

She also welcomed moves by the Department of Basic Education to introduced Afrocentric history in classrooms, and said it was long overdue.

Cape Town Mayor Patricia De Lille said she felt honoured to have served in Parliament as a young MP with Ma Sisulu in the Portfolio Committee of Social Development.

She said Ma Sisulu, who led from the front during the liberation struggle, is testimony that women were at the forefront in the fight against the ruthless apartheid regime.

Her exploits, De Lille said, meant that Ma Sisulu was, for her efforts, subjected to harassment from the police and was among the many women who found themselves in solitary confinement without trial.

Mama Albertina Sisulu’s awards 

Kubayi-Ngubane said, meanwhile, that in tribute to Ma Sisulu, the department had created a research chair in nursing in her honour. Ma Sisulu, who was a wife to Rivonia Trialist Walter Sisulu, was a professional nurse during her time.

“Last week we held the women in science awards … and part of what we have done during the ceremony, we renamed our department’s fellowship awards to Mama Albertina Sisulu’s awards so that continuously beyond this year, generations and those young scientists and scientists who are going to get these awards can try and understand who Mama is…

“We think that in that way we will continue to make sure that her name does not fade away [and] people don’t forget who she is as part of those people who fought for our liberation and for our democracy,” the Minister said. – SAnews.gov.za