Walter Sisulu deserves the greatest place in the sun

May 18, 2014 § 3 Comments

This column first appeared in the Cape Times in 2013. It would have been his birthday today and I felt that I needed to post this here.

Sies! How soon we forget. I fear we are forgetting a great hero. And because we want to forget, I fear that this column might not get as many readers as it should so we can remember the man.

I was angered last week when the 10th anniversary of his death went by as a mere whimper in the country he suffered for.

He did not only contribute himself to the Struggle, but he committed his whole family to it.

Walter Sisulu’s family needs to stop being humble. They are robbing a generation of young people of a great example.

On May 5, 2003, Walter Sisulu died. We are beneficiaries of his suffering.

We inherited a country he dreamed of for many years while he languished in prison, yet I fear his contribution is being forgotten; that he is being relegated to the sidelines.

He was humble, never one to boast or one to seek the limelight. It would be nice if we decided to be humble about his memory, and not brag about it, because that is what we think he would have wanted.

However, I don’t care what he would have wanted. He deserves the greatest place in the sun. He should not be hidden in the shadows when we live in the sun born of his suffering. We cannot afford to have him fade into a minor hero of the Struggle when we are what we are because of him.

Nelson Mandela never forgot him.

Who could forget the pain in his words as he spoke about his Struggle friend on May 8, 2003? “Xhamela (his clan name) is no more. May he live forever! His absence has carved a void. A part of me is gone.

“Our paths first intersected in 1941. During the past 62 years our lives have been intertwined.

“We shared the joy of living, and the pain. Together we shared ideas, forged common commitments. We walked side by side through the valley of death, nursing each other’s bruises, holding each other up when our steps faltered. Together we savoured the taste of freedom. From the moment when we first met, he has been my friend, my brother, my keeper, my comrade.”

There are few men, if any, who Mandela held in higher regard than Sisulu, yet we chose to forget him.

Mandela thinks he would not be the man he is today were it not for Sisulu.

In his book, Long Walk To Freedom, Mandela credits many people for his political education, but singles out Sisulu.

If we think Mandela is a great man, how much greater is the man who made him?

Few liberation moments have had people with no ego, who, even with a chance to elevate themselves, would instead step aside and say there is a better man for the job – and groom and mentor that man.

In a PBS interview, Sisulu said: “I thought Nelson had even better qualities than me, and I wanted him to have even more… I was also encouraged by his ability to change, by his attitude to people.”

Let not Sisulu be forgotten.

We need to boast about who he was and what he did. If there are no statues erected in his honour, we ought to erect his memory and what he did forever in our hearts and pass it on to our children.

He lived his life in the shadows because he wanted others to take the shine.

He does not deserve to live in the shadows in death too. Let us not forget to credit the man who didn’t care who took the credit for our victory against a great evil.

May the spirit of Sisulu burn brighter with each passing year.

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