African National Congress spokesman Brian Sokutu, confirming the death Thursday, said Sisulu “dedicated all her life to the ANC and to the defeat of apartheid and ushering in of constitutional democracy in South Africa.”
Walter Sisulu, who died in 2003, spent 25 years in custody on Robben Island alongside Mandela, whom he had brought into the ANC.
Albertina Sisulu was left behind to raise the couple’s five children. She spent months in jail herself and had her movements restricted.
Sisulu, trained as a nurse, campaigned against apartheid and for the rights of women and children. She was a leader of the United Democratic Front, a key anti-apartheid coalition in the 1980s that brought together religious, labor and community development groups. She also was a leader in the ANC and the ANC’s women’s wing.
She was once quoted as saying, “Over the years I got used to prison, banning and detention. I did not mind going to jail myself and I had to learn to cope without Walter. But when my children went to jail, I felt that the (oppressors) were breaking me at the knees.”
She lived to see her children take prominent positions in post-apartheid South Africa. Daughter Lindiwe Sisulu is defense minister. Son Max Sisulu is speaker of the National Assembly.
Albertina Sisulu also served in parliament, taking a seat after the first all-race elections in 1994 and serving four years.
Albertina Sisulu took part in some of the iconic moments of the anti-apartheid movement, including the launch in 1955 of the Freedom Charter, which proclaims “South Africa belongs to all who live in it, black and white.” She was a leader in 1956 of a march on Pretoria by thousands of women of all races opposing the extension to women of pass laws — which restricted the movement of black South Africans. The slogan of the 1956 march was, “You strike a woman, you strike a rock.”