Walter Sisulu

By: Alexis Meservey


  • Born on May 18, 1912 in the Transkei region of South Africa
  • He is mixed race, but was inducted into the Xhosa community in 1927
  • Worked in the gold mines where he met Clements Kadalie, the leader of the Industrial and Commercial Workers' Union (ICU)
  • He joined the African National Congress (ANC) in 1940
  • It was through the ANC that he met Nelson Mandela, Oliver Tambo, and his future wife, Albertina, whom he married in 1944
  • He helped form the ANC Youth League along with Mandela, Albertina, and Tambo in 1944 to help bring more militancy to the ANC
  • He took part in the Defiance Campaign
  • He was banned by the government after enforcing civil disobedience against apartheid in 1952
  • He joined the South African Communist Party (SACP) in 1953
  • He was one of the defendants in the Treason Trial that lasted from 1956 to 1961, and although he was acquitted, he was placed on house arrest immediately after
  • He joined the MK in 1963 causing him to be found guilty of treason in the Rivonia Trial and sentenced to life imprisonment
  • While in prison, he gave lectures about the history of the ANC and the liberation struggle
  • He remained in prison until 1989
  • After he was released from jail, he was appointed the deputy president of the ANC in 1991
  • He retired from politics in 1994
  • He died on May 5, 2003 in Johannesburg, South Africa


  • Helped form the ANC's Youth League in 1944 and became secretary of the Youth League
  • Elected as the ANC's Secretary-General in 1949
  • Helped influence the ANC to adopt the Youth League's Programme of Action
  • He and Yusuf Cachalia were joint secretaries of the Congress Alliance
  • He helped ally the ANC and SACP
  • He helped create the MK and became the political advisor in the MK High Command
  • Became the deputy president of the ANC in 1991

Significance to the Anti-Apartheid Movement

  • He played a significant role in the 1952 Defiance Campaign
  • He was a major part of the ANC, the ANC Youth League, the MK, and the Congress Alliance
  • He helped in composing the Freedom Charter
  • He helped spread knowledge about the ANC and liberation struggle in general while in prison after the Rivonia Trial
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Walter Sisulu and his wife, Albertina Sisulu in 1994.
Gallo Images/Getty Images Europe

Nelson Mandela's tribute to Walter Sisulu

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The Telegraph. Telegraph Media Group,Web. 15 Nov. 2015.

Works Cited

  • "Walter Sisulu." World History: The Modern Era. ABC-CLIO, 2015. Web. 12 Nov. 2015.
  • "Walter Ulyate Sisulu." South Africa History Online, Web. 15 Nov. 2015.
  • Brennan, Carol. "Sisulu, Walter." HighBeam Research, 01 Jan. 2005. Web. 15 Nov. 2015.