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As the funeral cortege of Albertina Sisulu wound through Soweto, thousands of people lined the streets or waited at Orlando Stadium to pay homage to the struggle stalwart.
THOUSANDS of people bid Albertina Sisulu farewell at Orlando Stadium on Saturday, 11 June, with former president Nelson Mandela describing the late struggle stalwart as “a dear friend and comrade” with whom he shared “so much over a lifetime”.

Max Sisulu at the funeral of his late mother, MaSisuluMax Sisulu at the funeral of his late mother, MaSisuluIn a speech delivered by his wife, Graca Machel, Madiba said it was difficult to describe the pain and sadness he felt at MaSisulu’s passing away on 2 June. “You are so much more than a comrade; you are part of my being – you and Walter,” he said.

Madiba said it was at the Sisulu house in Orlando West where he met his first wife, Evelyn, who bore him four children. “You, Ntsiki, loved and cared for my children as if they came from the same womb as your own. I take this special occasion to express my deep gratitude to you.”

MaSisulu is “one of the greatest South Africans”, who provided leadership and exercised power with quiet dignity, Madiba said.

“Through your selflessness and dedication, through your moral authority and sincere humility – during and after the struggle – you rightly earned to be the mother of all our people. I hope that our cadres and people in general will cherish your qualities, learn from them, and emulate them in their own lives and conduct.”

Madiba said he would have loved to be at the funeral to pay his last respects “but it would be too painful for me to see you go”.

MaSisuluMaSisulu: forever remembered“You are joining our distinguished loved ones Walter [Sisulu], Oliver [Tambo], Adelaide [Tambo], Govan [Mbeki], Lillian [Ngoyi], Helen [Joseph] and others,” he said.

Early in the morning, a casket wrapped in the African National Congress flag arrived at MaSisulu’s home in Orlando West. It was here that MaSisulu spent 60 years of her life. Those who arrived at the home included President Jacob Zuma, former President Thabo Mbeki and several Cabinet ministers and premiers.

Zuma granted MaSisulu an official funeral, reserved for distinguished persons, specifically designated by the president.

From the Sisulu home, the funeral cortege headed to Orlando Stadium where thousands of people had gathered to bid MaSisulu farewell. Women in ANC colours, school children and ordinary folk sang songs and danced, lending an almost celebratory mood to the atmosphere.

At around 9am, MaSisulu’s casket arrived at the stadium and the ANC flag was replaced with a South African flag. The Archbishop of Cape Town, Thabo Magoba, led the service with a prayer. Grandchildren Vuyisile, Vuyelwa, Nomvula and Pam Randal read an obituary of their grandmother.

In his oration Zuma said MaSisulu was “an outstanding patriot whose name has become synonymous with our struggle for freedom, justice, human rights and human dignity”.

“One of the most steadfast, dignified and disciplined pillars of our struggle has fallen, an era has ended, and the nation is devastated, but we are proud to be associated with Mama Albertina Nontsikelelo Sisulu.

 People celebrate MaSisulu's life at Orlando StadiumPeople celebrate MaSisulu's life at Orlando Stadium“We are laying to rest a stalwart and mother of the nation, who combined resilience and fortitude in fighting colonial oppression and apartheid, with compassion for the poor and the downtrodden.

“We are bidding farewell to a national heroine who produced many cadres of the liberation movement, and shaped our political thought and action in many ways.”

MaSisulu was a larger than life person, under whom “many of today's senior leaders in government, politics and business matured under her guidance, care and love. She was their mother and their pillar of strength”, said Zuma.

“Her neighbours here in Soweto have testified that she was their mother too, always available to assist, always ready to provide wise counsel and love.
 
“And her neighbours in Linden have spoken fondly of her wonderful personality and her humanity.  She was their mother too.”

After the funeral service, the cortege headed to Newclare Cemetery, a venue that would be MaSisulu’s final resting place beside her husband Walter. Hundreds of Soweto residents lined the streets, waving and singing struggle songs as the cortege wound through the streets.

At Newclare, only family members and VIPs were allowed to witness the burial of MaSisulu, “a wise and wonderful” person, in Zuma’s description.

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