Walter Sisulu

By: Jordan Wasylak

Who was Walter Sisulu?

Walter Ulyate Max Sisulu was born on May 18th, 1912, in the village of Qutibeni. He attended an Anglican missionary institute and left at the age of 15 to support his family by working in Johannesburg, finding an employment in dairy. In 1929, he began to work in the gold mines, which combined with his experience in meeting Clements Kadalie influenced him politically. He kept getting fired due to trying to organize the black workers to demand for better treatment. Later, he found work at a bakery, and was fired in 1940 for organizing a strike for higher wages. This is when Sisulu decided to join the ANC, or the African National Congress. He married Albertina Thethiwe in 1944, both of them extremely serious and dedicated in the liberation struggle and their involvement to help their people. Sisulu, along with Mandela, Tambo, and Mda, helped to establish a Youth League for the ANC. He worked his way up to become a member of the Transvaal executive, as well as being secretary of the Youth League. Sisulu adopted a militant Program of Action for the Youth League, and was elected as Secretary General of the ANC. In 1963, Sisulu and other members of the ANC were arrested and charged for planning acts of sabotage, as well as sentenced to life-imprisonment. Through his course of actions in his lifetime, Walter Sisulu was one of the most impactful and dedicated members of the ANC, shown through his concern for the well-being of his people and community.


Walter Sisulu was not only a member of the ANC that participated in protests and meetings, but his "fearless, totally dedicated, and formidable strategic and organizational abilities" (SAHO) were the main factors in allowing the ANC to transform into a militant national organization. During WWII, Sisulu protested against black African's participating in the war, and pressed the ANC to adopt boycotts and other forms of action to help the "disenfranchised" (SAHO). This demonstrates how he did not only wish to further the anti-apartheid movement, but he wanted to care for and maintain the well-being of his fellow Africans. Shown through his actions with the Youth League, Walter always took the more pragmatic route in collaborating with other parties and organizations, rather than allowing the League to be heavily influenced by those parties. In 1950, Sisulu took over many of president of the ANC James Moroka's responsibilities in addition to being the secretary. He was vital in the planning of the Defiance Campaign of 1952, and led a group of resisters, being arrested shortly thereafter. After he toured many countries, he joined the South African Communist Party, and his membership was seen as "one of the most important factors cementing the relationship between the ANC and SACP" (SAHO). When Sisulu was ordered to a lifetime in prison, he continued to devote his time creating an underground ANC structure, which helped maintain discipline. This demonstrates how despite the setbacks during his career, he did not let anything get in the way from helping further the anti-apartheid movement. A Syllabus was created during his time in jail by the ANC about the liberation struggle, and Nelson Mandela acknowledged Walter as "'the heart of all our education'" (SAHO), due to his involvement with the High Organ. After he was released, in 1994, even though his health forced him to retire from active politics, Sisulu continued to commit himself to the well-being of his community. Through the help of this incredible man, the ANC was able to fight their way to victory and the establishment of freedom for all people in South Africa.

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Walter and Albertina Sisulu interviewed in Detroit in 1996 P





Articles: "Walter Ulyate Sisulu." SAHO. N.p., n.d. Web. 15 Nov. 2015.

"Walter Sisulu Timeline 1912-2003." SAHO. N.p., n.d. Web. 15 Nov. 2015.