top of page

Mrs Albertina Sisulu – free to speak after 17 years

“I feel strange. I can’t believe it” Mrs Albertina Sisulu spoke these words on July 31 1981.


That was the day the Government lifted her banning order. She was banned for 17 years. Now she is free to talk again.

Mrs Sisulu was banned in 1964. For 17 years she could not speak to more than two people at the same time.

She could not speak to newspapers. She could not speak at meetings.


Mrs Sisulu was under “house arrest” for ten of the 17 years. She left Soweto twice a year. She left Soweto to visit her husband in jail. She saw her husband for one hour each time.

“Hope kept me strong”, says Mrs Sisulu. “I knew that other people were doing good work. These people gave me hope.”


Life is hard for Mrs Sisulu. Her husband, Walter Sisulu, went to jail in 1964. She was alone with five children to feed.

Now two of her children have left South Africa. And her youngest son, Zwelakhe, is banned and in jail. She does not know where he is. And she does not know what will happen to him.


But Mrs Sisulu is happy that she is not banned any more. “I am still not free but now my life is easier” says Mrs Sisulu.

She says: “Life is hard for banned people. I could not care for my children properly. I could not take them to school and I could not talk to their teachers”.

She says: “Banned people cannot see many friends. I missed my friends very much. And my father-in-law died in April. I was not allowed to bury him.”


Mrs Sisulu thinks that women can help each other a lot. She remembers when 20 000 women marched to Pretoria 25 years ago.

“That was a good day,” says Mrs Sisulu. “We marched to Pretoria because the Government said that women must carry passes. We marched to show that we were not happy.”

“It was a good day becuase women stood together. We knew that passes were a bad thing. We knew that passes would break up families. Now we see that we were right. “


Mrs Albertina Sisulu has worked as a nurse for 36 years.

She says, “I came to Johannesburg in 1942 I came from a poor family in the Transkei. I came to study nursing. I met my husband at that time.”

Mrs Sisulu is 63 years old. And she still works very hard. She works at the Shanty Clinic, in Orlando West, Soweto.


She gets up at five o’clock every morning. She walks three kilometres to the clinic. After work she goes to a church to study. She is studying for matric.

Mrs Sisulu was banned for 17 years. But she will not keep quiet.

She says, “There is a lot of work to do. We will fight against the pass laws. We will fight against Bantu Education. We will fight against high rents. We will not stop”.



If you would like to print or save this article as a PDF, press ctrl + p on your keyboard (cmd + p on mac).

bottom of page