7 May 2003

Walter Sisulu died

African National Congress veteran Walter Sisulu died on May 5, 2003 at his Johannesburg home. Sisulu was among the group of radicals who formed the African National Congress (ANC) Youth League in 1943/44 and had been a central leader in the party since. He was 90 at the time of his death.

Former president and long-time friend, Nelson Mandela sent a tribute. "Xhamela is no more. May he live forever! His absence has carved a void. A part of me is gone," Mandela said. The ANC responded to the news with deep sorrow. "It is with a heavy heart and profound sense of loss that the African National Congress learned of the death of Isithwalandwe Walter Max Ulyate Sisulu, a giant of the liberation struggle and one of the founding fathers of South Africa's democracy," the ANC said. The party paid tribute to Sisulu, who it described as an African patriot whose heroism, humility and leadership earned him the respect and love of millions of people. "Our paths first intersected in 1941.

Sisulu came to Johannesburg from Engcobo, Transkei in 1929. He later worked in the mines and joined the ANC in 1940. In 1944, he married Nontsikelelo Albertina, with whom he was to have five children. He was elected ANC deputy president at its national conference of July 1991 and remained in that position until after South Africa's first democratic election in 1994. Sisulu remained active in the ANC following the end of his term as deputy president in December 1994. For several years he maintained an office in the ANC's Johannesburg headquarters and undertook a number of responsibilities on behalf of the organisation.

According to a joint press conference given by the family of the deceased and the ANC, Walter Sisulu’s body will be buried with full state honours at the Creosus Cemetery in Industria near Westbury, a site chosen by the family, on Saturday, May 17. The night before, a night vigil will be held between 19:00 and 23:00 on Friday at Uncle Tom's Hall in Orlando West, Soweto. The funeral service at the Orlando Stadium in Soweto will be conducted by the former Truth and Reconciliation Commission chair Archbishop Desmond Tutu, and by Methodist Church Bishop Mvume Dandala who will lead the service at the graveside.(Business Day)

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