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It is not widely known that Sisulu's mother Alice Sisulu was a domestic worker and his father, Victor Dickenson, was a white civil servant. Born on May 18 1912, Sisulu and his elder sister Rosabella were brought up in Ngcobo, Transkei, by his mother, his uncle Dyantyi Hlakula and his grandparents. Sisulu learned a great deal about Xhosa culture and the laws of society from his influential uncle, who was the headman of the village and a lay preacher. One of Sisulu's earliest childhood memories was the trip to Cofimvaba, a village town, to be vaccinated during the influenza epidemic.

He also recalls playing football and tinte, a Xhosa variant of cricket. Early political influences were Marcus Garvey, whose supporters preached the philosophy of Africanism - getting "back to Africa". History lessons at the Anglican Missionary Institute in Ngcobo also inspired Sisulu greatly. It was during these classes that he learned about Shaka,Moshoeshoe, Cetshwayo and General Makana (Makanda). Another inspiring figure was David, the tiny man who slew the giant Goliath. As a child he frequently visited the home of Dr Rubusana, an old man who had founded the Native Congress in the Eastern Cape. Rubusana was a direct political influence on Sisulu who later became a supporter of Clement Kadalie's ICU in East London when he worked there.

At 14 Sisulu left mission school to work. Between 1928 and 1940 he worked in a range of jobs: as a delivery man for a dairy; in the masonry and carpentry department, then as a miner, of the Rose Deep Mine in Germiston; as a domestic; as a baker for Premier Biscuits; as a paint mixer for Herbert Evans in Johannesburg; as a packer for a tobacconist; as a part-time teller at the Union Bank of South Africa, and after 1938 as an advertising salesperson and real estate agent. In 1943, as a founder member of the ANC Youth League, he attended conferences of the Federation of Democratic Youth in Romania and the International Union of Students in Poland. He also travelled to the USSR, China and the UK.

In 1949 he became ANCYL secretary. He published a book on African nationalism commissioned by the government of India in 1954. In the '50s and early '60s he also wrote numerous articles for New Age, the Guardian and Liberation. He was jailed for life along with the other Rivonia trialists in 1963. On Robben Island he completed a BA in art history and anthropology and read more than 100 biographies. Sisulu's wife is Albertina Thetiwa Sisulu. They have five natural children who have all contributed to the South African struggle: Max, Anthony Mlungisi, Zwelakhe, Lindiwe and Nonkululeko. In addition they have four adopted children: Jongumzi, Gerald and Beryl (whose biological mothers are Sisulu's sister and his cousin) and finally Samuel, a former Robben Islander who begged to be part of Sisulu's family and has now been formally adopted. Sisulu was released from prison on 15 October 1989. He was elected Deputy President at the ANC national conference in July, 1991. He became a patron of the UDF, the Omhle Trust and the Twa Twa Trust, and an honorary chancellor of the University of Venda. He holds four honorary doctorate degrees. He has been awarded the Isitwalandwe by the ANC on the 80th Anniversary of the ANC, Bloemfontein, 8 January, 1992

Document written by Walter Sisulu


15 July 1998 Speech by Walter Sisulu at a Reception for the Presentation of the Award of Padma Vibhushan by the Government of India
Opening address by W.M. Sisulu at 7th Annual Conference of Natal Indian Congress

Media Statements

11 October 1991 Statement by Walter Sisulu, Deputy President, ANC at the special meeting of the Special Committee against Apartheid on the Day of Solidarity with South African Political Prisoners
Statement by W.M. Sisulu in court, during Defiance Campaign, before being sentenced for pass offence
Statement by W.M. Sisulu on the Call to the Congress of the People
Statement by W.M. Sisulu after being ordered to resign from Membership of the ANC and from his position as Secretary-General
30 October 1989 Excerpts from interview to Time - Weekly News Magazine with Walter Sisulu
Answers to questions by Drum: W.M. Sisulu
Broadcast on the Clandestine ANC Radio by W.M. Sisulu
Message by W.M. Sisulu to the Negro people of the United States of America
Answers by W.M. Sisulu to questions by Drum

Miscellaneous Documents

1 March 1976 Essay by W.M. Sisulu
Evidence in the Rivonia Trial, 1964: Excerpts - W.M. Sisulu


26 September 1955 Article in Fighting Talk by W.M. Sisulu: Forward with the Freedom Charter
Article by W.M. Sisulu - "Congress and the Africanists"
Article in Liberation by W.M. Sisulu: The extension of the pass laws
In the Transkei, where famine rules, people fear the future by W.M. Sisulu
South Africa`s struggle for Democracy by W.M. Sisulu
Article in Liberation by W.M. Sisulu - "Boycott as a Political Weapon"


Letter by W.M. Sisulu to Paul Robeson
Letter from W.M. Sisulu to Prime Minister D. F. Malan on behalf of the African National Congress
Letter from W.M. Sisulu to Dr. W.E.B. Du Bois
Letter from W.M. Sisulu to Paul Robeson
Letter from W.M. Sisulu to W. A. Hunton
Letter by W.M. Sisulu to W.A. Hunton


Report by W.M. Sisulu of the Joint Planning Council of the ANC and the South African Indian Congress