Albertina Sisulu Timeline 1918 - 2011

1918
21 October Nontsikelelo Thethiwe was born in the village Camama in the Tsomo district of the Transkei to a very large family.
Circa 1926
Albertina started school in a local primary school in Xolobe that was run by Presbyterian missionaries. It is here that she had to choose a Christian name from a list presented to her by the missionaries. Nontsikelelo chose the name Albertina.
1936
Albertina left for Mariazell College in Matatiele in the Eastern Cape. Father Huss arranged for a four year high school scholarship for Albertina at the College.
1939
Albertina finished high school.
1940
January, Albertina was accepted as a trainee nurse at the Johannesburg General Non-European hospital and after spending Christmas with her family in Xolobe she left for Johannesburg in January.
1941
Albertina's mother died. The Johannesburg General hospital would not permit her leave to attend the funeral in Xolobe.
Albertina Thethiwe met Walter Sisulu and they began dating.
1944
Albertina qualified as a nurse and midwife.
15 July, Albertina married Walter Sisulu in a civil ceremony in the Transkei.
17 July, Albertina and Walter had their wedding reception at the Bantu Men's Social Centre in Johannesburg where Nelson Mandela was the best man and Albertina's friend Evelyn (at the time married to Mandela) was one of the bridesmaids. Dr Xuma, then president of the ANC, and Anton Lembede, president of the newly formed ANC Youth League, were the main speakers. Lembede warned Albertina that she was marrying a man who was already married to the nation.
11 September, Albertina accompanied here husband to the founding conference of the ANC youth League. She was the only women present, her presence at the conference was to support Walter and she did not join the League because it was very much a young men's organisation at the time. Walter Sisulu, Anton Lembede, Nelson Mandela, Oliver Tambo, and Ashley Mda, were elected to the executive committee.  
1945
Albertina gave birth to her and Walter's first child, son, Max.
Circa 1947
Walter decided to quit his job and join the African National Congress (ANC) full time at this time Albertina was working at the Orlando Clinic. She accepted the responsibility of supporting the family as the sole bread winner.
1948
The election victory of the Nationalist government precludes democracy and Walter and Albertina Sisulu and other ANC members sought new ways to fight injustice and oppression.
Albertina joined the ANC Women's League.
Albertina gave birth to her and Walter's second child, Lungi.  
1949
Walter Sisulu was appointed the first full-time Secretary General of the ANC, a position he held from 1949 to1954. At the same congress, the military Programme of Action was adopted. This would become a major impetus to transforming the ANC from a reactive, protest movement to a mass organization.
1950
Albertina gave birth to her and Walter's third child, Zwelakhe.
1951
29 July, Walter Sisulu attended a secret meeting of representatives of the ANC and South African Indian Congress in Johannesburg. At this meeting it was decided that the second phase of the resistance campaign would commence during 1952. An ultimatum was addressed to the Government to repeal all discriminating Legislation before or/on 29 February 1952. If this did not take place a mass contravention of such Legislation would be launched in all sections of the country. The date upon which the 'defiance campaign' would begin was set for 6 April 1952 so that it could coincide with the beginning of the Van Riebeeck festival.
1952
Walter Sisulu and Yusuf Cachalia (TIC) were elected joint secretary of the national Action Council that courted volunteers for the Defiance Campaign. Walter Sisulu left home and traveled through the country to organise for the defiance campaign. He addressed numerous meetings. Among other places, Sisulu visited Bloemfontein, Kimberley, Cape Town and Port Elizabeth.
Walter Sisulu partnered with Nana Sitha as leader of the Defiance Campaign, which saw 8500 volunteers sent to prison.
12 August, Walter Sisulu and others are arrested on a charge under the Suppression of Communism Act.
2 December, for continuing to organize, Walter Sisulu is convicted a second time and sentenced to 9 months imprisonment and 3 years suspension. He risked 10 years in prison.
17 December, Walter Sisulu is served with a notification, in terms of section 9 of the Suppression of Communism Act, whereby he is prohibited, for a period of six months, from attending any meeting in the union.
1953
15 July, Walter Sisulu and P.P.D. Nokwe, a former teacher and member of the ANC, go overseas under false names and without passports. They arrived in London and went from there to Romania to attend a communist festival. They continued to travel through  Czechoslovakia, Poland, Russia and Communist China.
1954
The Federation of South African Women (FEDSAW) was established, Albertina was a founding member, but at first was not part of the leadership.
Albertina gave birth to her and Walter's fourth child, Lindiwe.
February - March, Walter Sisulu addresses ANC meetings across the country giving accounts of his travels through Russia and Communist China.
1955
FEDSAW was actively involved in the ANC's boycott of Bantu Education and Albertina lead a campaign.
26 June, Walter and Albertina Sisulu witnessed the Congress of the People in Kliptown, not far from their home. Because of a banning order, Walter had to remain on the outskirts of the historic meeting. Here the Freedom Charter was read to 2884 delegates.
September, During one of the most widespread raids on homes and offices in South African history, The Sisulu family was one of the 500 families accosted in their homes.
1956
FEDSAW organizes the anti-pass women's march to the union buildings. Transporting women from all over to Pretoria was perhaps the biggest logistical challenge to the march, because of the financial costs as well as police measures to stop this. Albertina was one of the leaders who had to ensure that women bypassed the reported police stops that were barring groups of ten or more women from traveling to Pretoria.
9 August, Albertina was at the Phefeni train station at 2am on this the day of the women's march buying and distributing tickets to women attending the march.
December, Walter Sisulu is arrested on a charge of High Treason. The Trial continues until 1961.
1958
Albertina gave birth to her and Walter's fifth child, Nonkululeko.
Albertina demonstrated as part of the Nurses' protest that started at Baragwanath against passes. Over 2000 women were jailed for participating in these demonstrations including Albertina who was part of a demonstration organised by the ANC Women's League in Orlando.
August, The start of the Treason Trial proper, Walter Sisulu was one of the accused. The Trial was relocated to Pretoria.  
1959
Albertina is elected to be the treasurer of the ANC Women's League.  
1 August, Walter and Albertina Sisulu attended a secret united meeting of the Federation of South African Women and ANC Women's League in Johannesburg. Ahmed Kathrada and Ruth First were also there.
1960
30 March, Walter Sisulu was detained during a post-Sharpeville state of emergency.
8 April, Both the PAC and the ANC are banned under the newly created Unlawful Organizations Act.
1961
Alice Sisulu, Walter's mother died.  
29 March, Walter Sisulu and other accused were found not guilty on the charge of High Treason, in the special court at Pretoria, and they were released.
27 April, The Sisulu's home at Orlando West were searched again and various documents were seized, in which blacks were instigated to strike on 29, 30 and 31 May 1961. A case in compliance with Section 2 (A) of the Act 8/1953 (Instigation) was made against Walter Sisulu.
June, At an ANC Working Committee meeting, the policy of non-violence was abandoned and Umkhonto we Sizwe (Spear of the Nation, MK) was formed through the agency of Walter Sisulu and Nelson Mandela, who were appointed chairman and political commissar respectively. Walter was responsible for framing the organizational units of National High Command, Regional Commands, Local Commands and cells.
16 December, MK was officially launched on the anniversary of Blood River. The intention was to associate with the significance for Afrikaners of this historic victory by vastly outnumbered Boers against the might of the Zulu army.
1962
26 October, "Walter is the third South African to be placed under house arrest. Effectively he was imprisoned in his own home as he was not allowed to be away from his home from 14:00 on Saturday to 07:00 on Monday, and before 07:00 and after 18:00 on weekdays. When out of the house, he was still confined to Johannesburg, and precluded from any location, native hostel or native village".
1963
4 March, Walter Sisulu was sentenced, in the Johannesburg Regional Court, to 6 years imprisonment for (1) under section 3 (1) (A) Act 8/53 - 3 years imprisonment. Sisulu appealed, but bail was refused.
9 March, Walter Sisulu was released on R6 000.00 bail.
20 March, Police obtain information that Walter Sisulu is an office bearer of Umkhonto We Sizwe (Spear of the Nation).  
3 April, Walter Sisulu placed under 24 hour's house arrest.
19 April, While awaiting the outcome of an appeal against a 6 year sentence, Walter Sisulu forfeited R6000 bail and went underground. Security Police visited the Sisulu's home and found that Walter had fled. To discover Walter's whereabouts, the police arrested Albertina. She was the first woman to be arrested under the General Laws Amendment Act of 1963. The Act gave the police the power to hold her in detention for 90 days without charging her. Albertina was placed in solitary confinement incommunicado for almost two months. During this time the security police psychologically taunted her (by threatening the safety of her children) with the intent of gaining information on Walter Sisulu's whereabouts.
26 June, Walter Sisulu spoke on "Freedom Radio" to urge the youth to join forces and continue the struggle to fight for freedom.
11July, Walter Sisulu, along with other ANC leaders, was captured at Lilliesleaf farm, Rivonia and arrested under Section 17 Act 37/1963 (the 90 day detention law).
Because Albertina was detained at this time and cut off from all interaction with the outside world she had no idea that the police had raided Lilliesleaf Farm and arrested her husband. She only found out three weeks after she was released.
9 October, Walter Sisulu, Nelson Mandela, Govan Mbeki, Ahmed Kathrada, Rusty Bernstein, Dennis Goldberg, James Kantor, Andrew Mlangeni, Elias Motsoaledi, Ramond Mhlaba and Bob Hepple (The Rivonia Trialist) were charged with sabotage and attempting to overthrow the state violently.
Albertina was placed under a banning order.
1964
12 December, Conclusion of Rivonia trial.
Sisulu, Mandela, Mbeki, Kathrada, Mhlaba, Mlangeni & Motsoaledi were sentenced to life imprisonment on Robben Island by the Pretoria Supreme Court for: Ӣ Sabotage
Ӣ Conspiracy to sabotage and
Ӣ Furtherance of the aims of a prohibited organisation (The Communist Party of South Africa and the ANC).
As Walter Sisulu and his co-accused left the courtroom, Albertina, some ANC Women's League members and other supporters rushed out to form a guard of honour to meet the men. The court officials turned them away, but they sang 'Nkosi Sikele i'Afrika' in Church Square in Pretoria in solidarity and mourning.
Albertina was left to rear her and Walter's five children, plus her late sister's two children, on her own. Albertina functioned as a link between the ANC leaders in jail and those in exile.
In order to visit her husband, Albertina was forced to apply for a passbook as no-one was allowed to visit Robben Island without one.
July, Albertina was served with a five-year banning order confining her to her home at nights and on weekends. She could not attend any gatherings of more than two people and was prevented from any political activities (valid until the 31st July 1969). Even though Albertina was under constant surveillance by the security police she still managed to exchange political information with Walter and network with other activists.
September, Albertina was able to visit her husband on Robben Island for the first time.
1966
Despite her banning order, Albertina managed to contact John Nkadimeng, who was closely associated with Walter Sisulu in the ANC before he joined the Communist Party. He too was also a target of the security police. Together they set up an ANC underground cell. They were joined by activist John Mavuso and the three of them maintained contact with the ANC leadership in Botswana. The cell's main activity was to help ANC members to leave the country for education or military training and they managed with the help of others to set up a working committee to facilitate this.
July, Albertina received a letter from the Liquidator informing her that he had sworn evidence that she was a member of the Communist Party and that FEDSAW was under "communistic domination and control" because its leaders; Albertina Sisulu, Eufemia Hlapane and Gertrude Shope, were confirmed communists. In a back and forth exchange of letters between Albertina, the Ministry of Justice and the Liquidator the allegations were dropped.
1967
Towards the end of 1967 Albertina grew suspicious that John Mavuso was a police informant. He was their main contact with the ANC leadership in Lusaka and he had opened up a new factory and Albertina was unsure where he had managed to get the money. After an investigation carried out by John Nkadimeng it turned out that Albertina's suspicions were correct. They decided not to confront Mavuso about this but they stopped all business with him.
1968
October, Albertina celebrated her 50th birthday
1969
Albertina obtained her matric certificate through an adult education course.
July, exactly five years after her first banning order the state informed Albertina that her banning order had been renewed for another five years and that she was being placed under partial house arrest.
1971
The Black Consciousness Movement (BCM) was very popular amongst students of the 1970s and Lindiwe Sisulu (Albertina's fourth child, her first daughter) was active in the Black People's Convention (BPC) from 1971-1973.
1974
25 April, Mozambique was liberated by FRELIMO. This victory boosted the morale of the South African freedom fighters.
July, Albertina's second five year banning order was due end, but it was renewed again for another five years. The partial house arrest requirement was removed, but she was prohibited to leave her own township of Orlando and she had to continue to report the Orlando Police Station weekly. Albertina had to apply for special permits to attend work-related lectures outside of Orlando from the Chief Magistrate of Johannesburg.
1975
Albertina's son Zwelakhe joined Rand Daily Mail as cadet.
1976
13 June, Albertina's daughter Lindiwe detained.
14 June, Albertina struggles to find out where her daughter is being held. She eventually learns that LIndiwe was being detained at John Vorster Square, the notorious detention centre where Steve Biko was murdered.
16 June, Nkuli Sisulu, Albertina's daughter and youngest child, and Nkuli's cousin Jongi were involved in the Student riots.
1977
Albertina was diagnosed with diabetes.
Walter Sisulu writes to Minister of Justice protesting against his daughter Lindiwe's continued detention.
May, Lindiwe was released from detention.
June, Lindiwe goes into exile.
Albertina facilitated the departure of many young people into exile post-1976 and there were many opportunities to mobilise not only the youth but also women. FEDSAW saw an increase in numbers.
1978
9 December, Albertina Sisulu's son Zwelakhe married Zodwa Mdladlamba.
1979
At the end of 1979 a group of students involved in the student boycotts in the Western Cape were advised to seek the mentorship of Albertina on how to take up education issues from a national liberation perspective. Jessie Duarte was part of a delegation who met with Albertina, Greta Ncapayi and others in Orlando West. After their initial meeting in 1979 Jessie worked alongside Albertina for a period of over 12 years. Jessie along with Sicily Palmer, Feroza Adams, Benny Manama, Baby Tyawa and Susan Shabangu became known as 'MaSisulu's girls'. It was Albertina's mission to develop what she called a "petticoat layer" of women leaders who would take over from the older women.
July, Albertina received a two-year banning order, without house arrest and with permission to go to church. The report from the security police recognised that Albertina was a very good public speaker who could mobilise many people so the ban on attending "gatherings" remained.
Albertina Sisulu's daughter Lindiwe marries Xolile Guma in Swaziland.
Albertina  Sisulu's son Zwelakhe was sentenced to 9 months imprisonment in the Thami Mkhwanazi trial.
1981
Albertina succeeded Lillian Ngoyi as president of FEDSAW.
Albertina was involved in a campaign against the government's plan to hold elections for the South African Indian Council (SAIC) which was a puppet advisory body to the government that purported to advise the state on Indian affairs.
June, The Transvaal anti-SAIC committee was formed in June 1981 and was met with an overwhelming response by the Indian community.
July, Albertina's banning order was finally lifted.
November, A national anti-SAIC conference was held in Durban and Albertina was one of the main speakers alongside ANC legend Archie Gumede. The anti-SAIC campaign was all about non-racialism and about bringing to life the values of the Freedom Charter. Albertina was seen as a living testament to both of those ideals.
1982
March/April, Walter Sisulu, Raymond Mhlaba and Andrew Mlangeni and Nelson Mandela were moved to Pollsmoor Prison. A few months later they were joined by Ahmed Kathrada. 
June, The regime banned Albertina again (one year order).
1983
August, Albertina was arrested and held without bail for more than six months on the charge of singing ANC songs at the funeral of a woman leader of the movement. She was sentenced to four years' imprisonment, but was released on bail pending appeal.
Albertina was elected president in absentia of the newly formed United Democratic Front (UDF), she was in jail at the time.
1984
December, Albertina was detained with other leaders of the UDF on a charge of high treason; she spent several months in prison before the case collapsed.
1985
Albertina was put into solitary confinement again, this time for nine months.
1986
Albertina was acquitted of high treason charges.
1987
18 May, Walter Sisulu celebrated 75th birthday.
1987
Govan Mbeki was released and speculation arose over Walter Sisulu's release.
1988
Following the rent crisis, where homes were being raided to persecute non-payers in Soweto, Albertina formed part of a delegation that met the mayor of Soweto to put an end to the raids.
1989
Walter Sisulu was released.
Albertina became part of the UDF delegation that met United States president, George Bush, to establish relations between the two countries.
1990
When the ANC was unbanned in 1990, Albertina worked on a committee that re-established the ANC Women's League. At the time she was the deputy President.
9 August, Albertina and other women from exile set up the first ANC Women League branch in Durban.
1991
Albertina was elected to serve on the ANC's national executive committee.
April, The ANC Women's League held its conferenceand Albertina Sisulu was nominated to stand for President in the election but she withdrew in favour of Getrude Shope.
July, Walter Elected ANC Deputy-President to avoid a potentially divisive contest between Thabo Mbeki and Chris Hani.
August, Albertina and Walter visited Singapore, Australia and Mauritius. Later in the year they visited North America (7 major Canadian cities and New York, Washington, Atlanta and Boston).
1992
8 January, In Bloemfontein, Walter Sisulu was awarded the Isitwalandwe Seaparankoe, the ANC's highest honour, for his contribution to the struggle for liberation.
1994
The Sisulu's observed the transition of their country in its first democratic election.
May, Walter was reunited with Father Trevor Huddleston on the latter's return to South Africa.
17 July, Walter and Albertina's 50th wedding anniversary.
1996
Walter traveled overseas for his last time, Albertina went with him. They were on a fundraising trip to the USA, Ireland and the UK on behalf of Education Africa.
1999
At the end of this year, Albertina and Walter left parliament for the last time and retired from politics completely.
2002
Walter and Albertina Sisulu: In Our Lifetime, a biography by Sisulu's daughter-in-law Elinor, is launched by the Nigerian poet Ben Okri, who also wrote a tribute for Walter's 90th birthday.
2003
5 May, On their way to bed that evening, Walter collapsed and dies in Albertina's arms.
2008
21 October, Albertina and the nation celebrate her 90th Birthday
2011
2 June, Albertina Sisulu dies at the age of 92

Last updated : 27-Jan-2016

This article was produced by South African History Online on 13-Jul-2011

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