The family of Albertina Sisulu and locals from her place of birth in Xolobe village in Tsomo feel they have been forgotten.

Locals say they have very little access to basic services such as toilets, running water, road infrastructure and recreational facilities.

This, at a time when South Africa and the world prepares to celebrate the centennial birthday of Mama Sisulu on the 21st of October.

Mama Nontsikelelo Sisulu – then Thethiwe – grew up in the village, and did her lower grades at a Xolobe medium school before it was later named after her.

She won a scholarship to study at the then prestigious Mariazell High School near Matatiele, before she went on to study nursing in Johannesburg where she met her husband Walter Sisulu.

The family says she sacrificed her family life to fight against the oppressive apartheid system.

Mhlangabezi Thethiwe, her nephew says: “The people from this village say her struggle was in vain –  because there is nothing that ever comes to this village. What hurt us the most is that people in other parts are honoured. It is only here that things are not done.”

 

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Another nephew, Nkcazelo Thethiwe, shares the sentiment: “People from this village take their kids to go and study outside, even as far as Cape Town. This is because the education system is poor. If I can make an example for you, in a nearby primary school, the kids went six months without a teacher. Then after six months they hired a local child with grade 12 and no teacher’s diploma.”

Sisulu solicited funds to refurbish her former school, but the family say it was also not done to her satisfaction.

However, the school officials are elated to be custodians of such rich historic and legacy.

Nomfuneko Somlota, of Albertina Sisulu Senior Primary: “We are happy. We would love to be assisted with more resources such as computers so we can be technologically advanced and improve our library.”

Those who grew up with Sisulu remember her as an immaculate lady and a go-getter.

Local community member Nowelile Fongoqa says: “We would see her with nice uniforms and beautiful clothes we could only dream to wear. She was everything… and we loved her. We always wanted to get her mind-set as to what does she want to become, and she would say she wants to become a prominent person since she was raised by uneducated parents.”

The family says more could be done to honour her legacy in this rural village.

Mhlangabezi Thethiwe, nephew says: “The first thing we had said is that we wish to have a hall built here. Secondly, we would like to have a sort of monument in her remembrance. We want it to be attractive to generations to come and learn about Albertina – but now there is no attraction it’s just these dilapidated houses.”

As her life is remembered… this community remains hopeful that her origins will not be forgotten.