The life of struggle stalwart Albertina Sisulu by any measure was a remarkable one. She took the mantle of leadership to boldly fight against the apartheid regime and was unrelenting in her work to reverse the shackles of oppression on our society.

In doing so Mama Sisulu left a distinctive imprint on our nation. She showed us that remaining true to our democratic ideals and selfless service was at the heart of the new society we are building. In celebrating the centenary of her life under the theme: “Albertina Sisulu: A woman of fortitude” we remember that throughout her life she passionately cared for her community and went out of her way to better the lives of others.

She took on the role of a mother to many in her community who were daily brutalised by the apartheid regime. Throughout her lifetime she became affectionately known as MaSisulu as she continued to instil hope and dignity. As a young nation that still endures the remnants of apartheid rule, we would do well to study her legacy so that we can follow Albertina Sisulu’s teachings and implement what she had worked so hard to achieve.

Our transition from apartheid to democracy did not automatically bring an end to the many social and economic injustices of the past. In fact it was the beginning of a journey that required us to work together to build a more cohesive society. Inspired by MaSisulu let us reach out to each other and build greater social cohesion in our country. An area of importance for her would be how we treat and respect one another in our daily lives. In her name let us transcend class, race and gender and come together as one nation.

We are fortunate to be guided by our world acclaimed Constitution on how we can unite and work towards a common goal. It promotes a democratic, non-racial, non-sexist, united and prosperous society based on justice, equality, the rule of law and human rights for all.Given our many pressing challenges some might question the need to commemorate the life of MaSisulu.  However, such a view is short-sighted; in honouring her life we are taught valuable lessons about the importance of standing up for what is right and being an active citizen. 

Her values of fighting for human rights, equality and justice for all has since become embedded in our national DNA. MaSisulu’s legacy teaches us that nothing is impossible when we remain true to our ideals. Our ideals and values as a nation are now more important than ever, and like countless others of MaSisulu’s generation, we will have to remain steadfast in the face of what may appear to be overwhelming obstacles to overcome. 

Our remembrance of Mama Sisulu teaches us that she was resolute in the emancipation of women across our nation. She along with other pioneering women stood up and confronted the status quo in marching to the Union Building in 1956. Their brave actions are undeniable proof that even the greatest tyranny can be defeated when we stand together.

Her legacy emboldens us to end the scourge of violence that many women in our nation face today. Let us endeavour to create a society with zero tolerance for violence against women and children; where people will speak out in one voice against women and children abuse and where people will fight any form of exclusion or marginalisation of women.

Drawing on the inspiration of MaSisulu, government will launch #WomenOfFortitude, a movement of 100 women, to drive the conversation of how women today can continue the legacy of MaSisulu. They will be called upon to create a chain of active citizens and invite women all over the world to become #WomenOfFortitude and change the world by leading as women.  Women who inspire positive change for a better South Africa, display strength of character, resilience, courage and bravery are encouraged to be part of the movement.

We owe Mama Sisulu a great debt of gratitude for boldly putting up her hand in service to our people.  As a nation we will honour her memory with a wreath laying ceremony, a special service at the Orlando West Holy Cross Anglican Church and the unveiling of a renovated crèche in Soweto. South Africans can be part of the celebration by the joining the conversation on #MaSisulu100, #AWomanOfFortitude and #WomenOfFortitude on social media. We can also join President Cyril Ramaphosa and the Sisulu family in a national prayer honouring the life and legacy of MaSisulu.

We are motivated by the legacy of Albertina Sisulu who throughout her life worked for a better life for all South Africans. Now is the time to take up her legacy and make a positive change in the lives of those around us.

Ms Nomvula Mokonyane is the Minister of Water and Sanitation & ANC NEC Member. 

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