Lindiwe Sisulu was born on the 10th of May 1954, in Johannesburg. She is the daughter of African National Congress (ANC) veterans, Walter and Albertina Sisulu. In 1971 Lindiwe completed her form 5 and enrolled for an Advanced Level course at the Waterford school in Swaziland. She studied Latin in preparation to the study of law at the Leeds University in London. However, her dream was shattered when the South African regime denied her a passport to travel to England. This left her with no option but to enroll for a degree in Swaziland, majoring in history and politics. Her studies were briefly interrupted when she was arrested in Johannesburg, South Africa, on 13 June 1976. She eventually obtained both her BA degree and Honours degree at the University of Swaziland. Lindiwe became editor of Times of Swaziland before teaching first at Manzini High School and then at the Manzini Teachers’ Training College. She then enrolled for an MA at the University of York, where she also completed her MPhil in 1989.

Lindiwe was held without trial under section 6 of the notorious Terrorism Act and spent 11 months in detention. Police alleged that she was in possession of funds of the banned ANC. “At first it was not so bad”, she said. “We had a way of communicating with other prisoners. Even after a session of interrogation and torture, you knew you could return to your cell and talk to the others through the wall and be comforted”. Later things changed. Lindiwe, like other political prisoners, was exposed to divergent forms of torture, mainly electric ones. “They tied my hands behind my back and applied various gadgets which produced an intense shock. Sometimes they made me sit down and applied the same torture; the pain was worse sitting down.”

Police constantly asked her about things she knew nothing about. Her arrest had nothing to do with the ANC. “What I was arrested for had nothing to do with the ANC, but the police didn’t believe what I said and so they kept on torturing me. They also interrogated me about my mother, against whom they were desperate to produce evidence. “And they went in for mental torture, which was perhaps the worst. They would say they had arrested my mother and two brothers and that there was no body at home except the small children. I believed them and it upset me”.

“They also said my mother was critically ill and wanted to see me, but they would not let me to go to her unless I talked. Later they told me she had passed away. In a way I was quite relieved. I believed she had been arrested, and thought it would be better for her to die than be subjected to the torture I had experienced. I thought it inevitable that they would kill her at some stage. “I wrote to the Minister of Justice to complain that I had not been allowed to attend my mother’s funeral.” 

Two months later Lindiwe was transferred to Hartebeestpoort police station and kept in solitary confinement. In Hartebeestpoort she was beaten. Electric torture was stopped as they did not have equipment. She was later moved to Pretoria Central prison, where she was severely treated. From Pretoria she was moved to Nylstroom prison, from where she was transferred home at the end of her 11 months nightmare in prison. Lindiwe went in exile and joined Umkhonto we Sizwe (MK), the military wing of the ANC, where she worked underground. During her years in military training, she specialised in Intelligence.    

In 1990, after the unbanning of the ANC and other political organisations, Lindiwe returned to South Africa and resumed work as personal assistant to Dr. Jacob Zuma and thereafter as an administrator in the ANC’s Department of Intelligence and Security. She has worked as chief administrator of the ANC at the Convention for a Democratic South Africa (CODESA) and as a consultant for UNESCO’s Children’s Rights Committee. In 1992 she was awarded the Human Rights Centre fellowship in Geneva. She has published extensively on the subjects of women, the liberation struggle, working conditions and even agriculture. Lindiwe is currently the Deputy Minister of Home Affairs. In 2001 Lindiwe was deployed to head the Department of Intelligence. She is currently national Minister of Housing.

She is currently holding the following positions:

  • Minister of Housing of the Republic of South Africa since 29 April 2004.
  • Inaugural Chairperson of the African Ministerial Conference on Housing and Urban Development since 2005.
  • Member of Parliament since 1994.
  • Member of the National Executive Committee (NEC) of the African Congress (ANC).
  • Member of the National Working Committee of the ANC.
  • Trustee of the South African Democracy Education Trust.
  • Member of the Board of the Nelson Mandela Foundation.
  • Trustee of the Albertina and Walter Sisulu Trust

She is currently serving as Minister of Human Settlements, Water & Sanitation since May 2019.

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