UNIVERSITY OF FORT HARE

UNIVERSITY LIBRARY

ANC ARCHIVES

 

 

Walter Sisulu prison letters

1964-1989

2 boxes, 0.2linear metres

 

 

 

ACQUISITION: ANC Archive Committee

ACCESS: The collection is open

PHOTOGRAPHS: none

VISUAL MATERIAL: none

AUDIO MATERIAL: none

PRINTED MATERIAL: none

COPYRIGHT: ANC Archive Committee

PROCESSED BY: Razia Saleh, June 2005

 

Walter Sisulu – A Brief Biography

 

It is not widely known that Sisulu’s mother Alice Sisulu was a domestic worker and his father, Victor Dickenson, was a white civil servant.

Born on May 18 1912, Sisulu and his elder sister Rosabella were brought up in Ngcobo, Transkei, by his mother, his uncle Dyantyi Hlakula and his grandparents. Sisulu learned a great deal about Xhosa culture and the laws of society from his influential uncle, who was the headman of the village and a lay preacher.

One of Sisulu’s earliest childhood memories was the trip to Cofimvaba, a village town, to be vaccinated during the influenza epidemic. He also recalls playing football and tinte, a Xhosa variant of cricket.

Early political influences were Marcus Garvey, whose supporters preached the philosophy of Africanism – getting “back to Africa”. History lessons at the Anglican Missionary Institute in Ngcobo also inspired Sisulu greatly. It was during these classes that he learned about Shaka,Moshoeshoe, Cetshwayo and General Mokana (Mokanda).

Another inspiring figure was David, the tiny man who slew the giant Goliath.

As a child he frequently visited the home of Dr Rubusana, an old man who had founded the Native Congress in the Eastern Cape. Rubusana was a direct political influence on Sisulu who later became a supporter of Clement Kadalie’s ICU in East London when he worked there.

At 14 Sisulu left mission school to work. Between 1928 and 1940 he worked in a range of jobs: as a delivery man for a dairy; in the masonry and carpentry department, then as a miner, of the Rose Deep Mine in Germiston; as a domestic; as a baker for Premier Biscuits; as a paint mixer for Herbert Evans in Johannesburg; as a packer for a tobacconist; as a part-time teller at the Union Bank of South Africa, and after 1938 as an advertising salesperson and real estate agent.

In 1943, as a founder member of the ANC Youth League, he attended conferences of the Federation of Democratic Youth in Romania and the International Union of Students in Poland. He also travelled to the USSR, China and the UK. In 1949 he became ANCYL secretary.

He published a book on African nationalism commissioned by the government of India in 1954. In the ’50s and early ’60s he also wrote numerous articles for New Age, the Guardian and Liberation.

He was jailed for life along with the other Rivonia trialists in 1963. On Robben Island he completed a BA in art history and anthropology and read more than 100 biographies.

Sisulu’s wife is Albertina Thetiwe Sisulu. They have five natural children who have all contributed to the South African struggle: Max, Anthony Mlungisi, Zwelakhe, Lindiwe and Nonkululeko. In addition they have four adopted children: Jonqumzi, Gerald and Beryl (whose biological mothers are Sisulu’s sister and his cousin) and finally Samuel, a former Robben Islander who begged to be part of Sisulu’s family and has now been formally adopted.

Sisulu was released from prison on 15 October 1989. He was elected Deputy President at the ANC national conference in July, 1991.

He became a patron of the UDF, the Omhle Trust and the Twa Twa Trust, and an honourary chancellor of the University of Venda. He holds four honorary doctorate degrees.

He has been awarded the Isitwalandwe by the ANC on the 80th Anniversary of the ANC, Bloemfontein, 8 January, 1992.

 

The above biography is taken from the ANC website: http://www.anc.org.za/ancdocs/history/people/sisulu/biography.html

 

See http://www.anc.org.za/ancdocs/history/people/sisulu_wmu.html and Walter and Albertina Sisulu: In our Lifetime by Elinor Sisulu, David Philip, 2002

for more information on Walter Sisulu. See also Robben Island and Prisoner Resistance to Apartheid by Fran Buntman, George Washington University, Washington DC.

 

Scope and Content Note

Walter Sisulu received these letters during his long years in South Africa’s prisons. Firstly at the infamous Robben Island, and thereafter at Pollsmoor Prison. It also includes 4 letters that he received after his release in October 1989.

These letters were retrieved from his vacant office in 51 Plein Street (Shell house), 10th floor in 2004. Elinor Sisulu has used the letters to write her book on Walter and Albertina Sisulu In our Lifetime, where she quotes from some of the letters.

Sisulu was a “D” group prisoner, in the classification scheme for prisoners on Robben Island. This meant that he was allowed to write one letter of 500 words and receive one letter every 6 months. This lasted for the first few years, and then the frequency was increased, and in 1987 Sisulu received up to 31 letters.

It is not clear if these letters represents all the letters that he received whilst in prison, and that he had in his possession upon his release. These are the letters that we found in his office that he had used as ANC Deputy President in 51 Plein Street.

The letters were also censored by the prison authorities – some have parts cut out or else scratched out.

Sisulu received letters from many people, sometimes using nicknames, etc. The following people and their relation to Sisulu have been identified using Elinor Sisulu’s book as the source:

 

Box 1

Folder 1

1964: 3 letters

1. dated 11 August from Tini. 5 pages

2. dated 9 September from Ntsiki. Includes message from Mlungisi and Nkulie. 2 pages (some page/s missing)

2. dated 26 October from Albertina. 2 pages (some page/s missing)

1965: 1 letter

1. dated 15 Nov from Albertina. 3 pages

1966: 2 letters

1. dated 12 July from Ntsiki. 4 pages

2. dated 19 Nov from Ntsiki. 3 pages

 

 

Folder 2

1967: 4 letters

1. dated 1 March from “Ntsikie” (Greta Vutela).3 pages

2. dated 21 August from Campbell [Campbell Mnyisi]. 4 pages

3. dated 26 August from Ntsiki. 3 pages

4. dated 27 November from Mkozi [Greta Ncapayi]. 2 pages

1968: 9 letters

1. dated 31 January from Tini. 5 pages

2. dated 15 March from from Ntsiki. 1 page

3. dated April from Ntombi. 3 pages

4. dated 27April from Lindi. 2 pages

5. dated 10 June from Greta [Ncapayi].3 pages

6. dated 1 July from R S Mdaka.5 pages

7. dated 30 August from Henrietta Mase.7 pages

8. dated 17 September from Ntsiki.2 pages

9. dated 25 November from Mkozi [Greta Ncapayi].3 pages

 

 

Folder 3

1969: 15 letters

1. dated 20 January from H N Gcanga. 1 page

2. dated 3 May from Britton B Malobola. 1 page

3. dated May from Nhinhi [Botswana]. 2 pages

4. dated 8 May from Tini. 5 pages

5. dated 15 May [1968?]from [Lindi Sisulu].2 pages (incomplete?)

6. dated 30 May from Aggie Gama.4 pages

7. dated 3 June from Lindi. 2 pages

8. dated 12 June from R S Mdaka.4 pages

9. dated 30 June from Mkozi [Greta Ncapayi].3 pages [censored]

10. dated 3 July from Edith[Swaziland].2 pages

11. dated August from Nkulie.2 pages

12. dated August from Naledi.1 page

13. dated 1 October from Irene Mkwayi.5 pages

14. dated 28 October from Ntsiki. 3 pages

15. dated 17 November from Beryl Lockman. 2 pages

 

Folder 4

1970: 10 letters

1. dated 21 February from Ntombi.3 pages

2. dated February from Lungi [Snr]. 3 pages

3. dated 4 Mar from R S Mdaka. 4 pages

4. dated 23 Mar from Ntombi.2 pages

5. dated 7 April from Lindi.4 pages

6. dated May from [Albertina Sisulu]. 5 pages [last page missing]

7. dated 1 July from J J Makhetha. 1 page

8. dated 5 July from Douglas D Sisulu.1 page [in Xhosa]. Back page another letter [in Xhosa], not signed, unidentified

9. dated 12 August from Tini.2 pages

10. dated October from Ntombi. 2 pages

1971: 11 letters

1. dated 6 January from Nomkhini. 2 pages

2. dated January from Ntombi.1 page

3. dated January from Mkozi. 2 pages

4. dated 31 January from Sheila Mashile. 3 pages

5. dated 9 February from Sheila. 3 pages

6. dated 18 February from Lungi [Snr].4 pages

7. dated 18 March from Ntombi.2 pages

8. dated April from Lindi. 6 pages

9. dated 3 May from Ntombi.3 pages

10. dated 28 September from Ntsiki.3 pages [in Xhosa].

11. dated 15 October from Lungi [Snr].4 pages

 

 

Folder 5

1972: 8 letters

1. dated February from Sheila Sisulu. 4 pages

2. dated Mar from Ncebi.5 page

3. dated April from Sheila. 5 pages

4. dated 17 July from Naran Jasmat Nanabhai.2 pages [censored]

5. dated 19 July from Sheila. 2 pages

6. dated 25 August from Sheila Sisulu. 5 pages

7. dated October from Henrietta Mase. 4 pages + 5page statement

8. dated December from Lindi.3 pages

1973: 9 letters

1. dated 2 February from Sheila Sisulu. 6 pages

2. dated 22 February from Mbuyiselo Hlakula. 3 pages [in Xhosa].

3. dated 5 June from Lindi. 5 pages

4. dated 13 August from Ntsiki.2 pages [in Xhosa].

5. dated 10 July from Clifford. 2 pages [in Xhosa].

6. dated 28 September from Sheila Sisulu. 2 pages

7. dated 22 October from Moses Zwelakhe. 2 pages

8. dated 26 October from Lindi.2 pages

9. dated 8 November from Sheila Sisulu. 1 pages

 

 

Folder 6

1974: 10 letters

1. dated 22 January from Albertina. 1 page + 1 page addressed to the Commanding Officer

2. dated 7 Mar from Sheila Sisulu.5 page

3. dated Mar from Lindi. 4 pages

4. dated 4 April from Nkuli.2 pages

5. dated 13 June from Ntombi. 2 pages

6. dated 6 July from Ntombi. 1 page

7. dated 7 October from Sheila Sisulu. 4 pages

8. dated October from Greta Vutela.3 pages + 3 pages from the grandchildren

9. dated 22 October from Paul [Joseph]. 2 pages

10. dated 6 December from Lettie Z Malindi. 1 page [in Xhosa]

1975: 14 letters

1. dated 5 January from R S Mdaka. 6 pages [censored]

2. dated 9 January from Z Marawu. 2 pages

3. dated 16 January from Lindi. 3 pages

4. dated 14 May from L Ngoyi.2 pages

5. dated June from Agnes Mnyila. 2 pages [in Xhosa]

6. dated 23 August from Ntombi. 4 pages

7. dated September from Moses. 2 pages [mainly in Xhosa]

8. dated 5 September from Paul and Adie [Joseph]

9. dated 23 September from Zamo [Winnie Madikezela-Mandela]. 3 pages

10. dated 24 September from Lindi. 2 pages

11. dated 3o September from Tinie. 2 pages

12. dated 1 October from Lungi [Snr]. 9 pages

13. dated 12 November from Sheila Sisulu. 2 pages

14. dated 25 November from R S Mdaka. 4 pages

 

 

Folder 7

1976: 12 letters

1. dated 11 January from Ellen N Hlakula. 4 pages [in Xhosa]

2. dated 4 May from M Gxiya.2 pages [mainly in Xhosa]

3. dated May from Moses Sisulu. 1 page [in Xhosa]

4. dated 6 July from Sheila Sisulu.8 pages [page(s) missing; censored]

5. dated 7 July from Ntsiki. 2 pages

6. dated 14 July from Ntombi. 2 pages [censored]

7. dated July from Nolindile Sisulu. 1 page [in Xhosa]

8. dated 17 [Aug] from Tini.3 pages

9. dated 2 September from Mercy. 1 page

10. dated December from Beatrice Mnyila. 2 pages [in Xhosa]

11. dated December from Lungi Sisulu [Snr]. 3 pages [censored]

12. dated 29 December from Mama Dalamba. 2 pages [censored]

1977: 15 letters

1. dated 6 January from Lindi [from detention]. 3 pages [censored]

2. dated 13 February from R S Mdaka.3 pages [censored]

3. dated March from Nondili ??. 3 pages [in Xhosa; censored]

4. dated 9 May from Moses Zwelakhe S. 2 pages

5. dated 26 May from Lindi.2 pages [censored]

6. dated 5 June from Lindi. 3 pages [censored]

7. dated 3 August from Greta Vutela. 2 pages [censored]

8. dated 18 August from Mercy. 2 pages

9. dated 23 Aug from Moses Zwelakhe.4 pages [in Xhosa]

10. dated 29 August from Ellen N Hlakula. 2 pages [in Xhosa]

11. dated September from [Nkuli]. 3 pages

12. dated September from Jongumzi. 3 pages

13. dated 22 September from Ntombi. 3 pages [censored]

14. dated September from Sheila Sisulu. 3 pages

15. dated 4 November from Sheila Sisulu. 3 pages

 

 

Folder 8

1978: 22 letters

1. dated 2 February from Beryl. 2 pages. [censored]

2. dated 23 February from Louisa Rakale. 1 page

3. dated 4 March from Gqwashu. 2 pages [in Xhosa]

4. dated 14 March from Moses.2 pages [mainly in Xhosa]

5. dated 6 April from Ntombekaya Sisulu. 3 pages [in Xhosa]

6. dated 10 April from Gqwashu. 1 page [mainly in Xhosa]

7. dated 18 April from Greta Vutela.2 pages

8. dated 26 April from Moses. 2 pages [mainly in Xhosa]

9. dated 19 May from R S Mdaka. 3 pages [censored]

10. dated June from Nonkululeko. 2 pages

11. dated June from Zodwa. 3 pages

12. dated 9 June from Daniel Mnini. 2 pages [in Xhosa]

13. dated August from Miriam Macozoma. 1 page [in Xhosa]

14. dated 27 August from Zodwa. 3 pages [censored]

15. dated 13 September from Ntombekaya Sisulu. 2 pages [mainly in Xhosa]

16. dated October from Nowonqile Jukuja. 3 pages [in Xhosa]

17. dated 11 October from Daniel Mnini. 2 pages [in Xhosa]

18. dated October from Greta Vutela. 2 pages + 3 letters from grandchildren [in Xhosa]

19. dated October from M Z Sisulu. 2 pages [in Xhosa]

20. dated 25 October from Nancy Thozama Billie. 2 pages [mainly in Xhosa]

21. dated November from M Macozoma. 1 page [in Xhosa]

22. dated Dec from Sheila Sisulu. 2 pages + wedding invitation card for Zodwa and Zwelakhe Sisulu.

1979: 26 letters

1. dated 10 January from G Vutela. 3 pages + 2 letters from grandchildren

2. dated 3 March from Daniel Mnini. 2 pages [in Xhosa]

3. dated 13 March from Nokhaya. 3 pages

4. dated 19 March from Greta Vuthela. 2 pages

5. dated 27 March from Gerrie Maqula. 2 pages [in Xhosa]

6. dated 30 March from Nkulie. 3 pages

7. dated 11 April from Gladstone Luvuyo Hlakula.2 pages [in Xhosa; Censored]

8. dated 30 April from Nokhaya. 3 pages. [Censored]

9. dated 9 May from Bantu. 1 page [mainly in Xhosa]

10. dated 18 May from Nancy Thozama Billie. 1 page

11. dated 29 May from Ntsiki (Tini). 3 pages [Censored]

12. dated 30 June from Xolile. 3 pages

13. dated 8 July from Zwelakhe. 3 pages [Censored]

14. dated 11 July from Vuvu (Vivi). 3 pages [Censored]

15. dated 20 July from A Lengisi. 1 page [mainly in Xhosa]

16. dated 23 July from Ncebi. 2 pages [Censored]

17. dated 9 August from [Nkuli]. 2 pages

18. dated 27 August from R S Mdaka. 5 pages [Censored]

19. dated 30 August from Nokhaya. 5 pages [Censored]

20. dated 31 August from Tini. 1 page [censored]

21. dated 1 October from Miriam Macozoma. 1 page [in Xhosa]

22. dated 15 November from Lindi. 4 pages [Censored]

23. dated 16 November from Jongumzi. 2 pages

24. dated 22 November from Nokhaya. 4 pages [Censored]

25. dated 23 November from P V Nohe. 2 pages [in Xhosa]

26. dated 29 November from Zwelakhe M Sisulu. 3 pages [Censored]

 

 

Folder 9

1980: 11 letters

1. dated 14 Jan from Gladstone. 2 pages [in Xhosa]

2. dated 15 February from Daniel Mnini. 2 pages [in Xhosa]

3. dated 8 March from Vuvu. 4 pages

4. dated 2 April from Nancy T Billie.2 pages [some parts in Xhosa]

5. dated 17April from [Lindi Sisulu]. 3 pages + note from grandchild

6. dated 2 June from Miriam Macozoma. 2 pages [in Xhosa]

7. cJune from Moses Sisulu.2 pages

8. dated 29 August from R S Mdaka. 5 pages [Censored]

9. dated 12 September from Miriam Macozoma. 2 pages [in Xhosa]

10. dated 11 November from N T Qobo?. 3 pages [in Xhosa]

11. dated 17 December from Daniel Mnini. 1 page [in Xhosa]

1981: 13 letters

1. dated 13 Jan from Lindi. 3 pages

2. dated 27 March from Nkuli. 2 pages

3. dated 14 May from Nonkululeko. 1 page

4. dated 3 June from Ntisiki. 5 pages [censored]

5. dated 18 July from [Nkuli]. 3 pages

6. dated 26 August from Lindi. 3 pages [Censored]

7. dated 31 August from Miriam Macozoma. 1 page [in Xhosa]

8. dated 3 September from Nkuli. 2 pages

9. dated 5 September from Masetshaba Sisulu. 4 pages.

10. dated 4 October from R S Mdaka. 4 pages [Censored]

11. dated 17 October from Ntombi. 1 page

12. dated 23 October from Lindi. 3 pages

13. dated 21 October from [Nkuli]. 2 pages

1982: 3 letters + 1 item

1. dated 14 Jan from Tiny. 2 pages [Censored]

2. dated 23 March from Simphiwe Nolindile. 2 pages [in Xhosa]

3. dated 23 November from Linda Sisulu. 2 pages

4. receipt from Pollsmoor Prison

1983: 1 letter

1. dated 22 February from Lindi. 3 pages [Censored]

1984-1985: no letters

 

 

Box 2

Folder 10

1986: 1 letter

1. dated 17 Dec from Ayanda. 2 pages

1987: 31 letters

1. dated 5 January from [Vuvu]. 4 pages

2. dated 5 January from Nellie Mankahla. 1 page [in Xhosa]

3. dated 12 Jan from [Jongumzi]. 4 pages

4. dated 8 February from Nonkuleleko. 3 pages

5. dated 9 February from Ruth. 3 pages

6. dated 13 February from Vuyo. 5 pages

7. dated 14 March from Elinor. 4 pages

8. dated 20 March from Ginyi Linda. 2 pages

9. dated 16 April from Zodwa. 4 pages.

10. dated 4 May from Jongumzi. 4 pages

11. dated 6 May from Sheila Sisulu. 5 pages

12. dated 11 May from Daso. Birthday card

13. dated 21 May from Elinor. 2 pages

14. dated 28 May from Frieda Matthews. 2 pages

15. dated 3 June from Elinor.1 page

16. dated 5 June from Nontsikelelo Sisulu.2 pages

17. dated 10 June from Sheila Sisulu. 3 pages

18. dated 26 June from Ginyi.2 pages

19. dated 20 July from Jongi.4 pages

20. dated 31 July from Nontsikelelo Sisulu.1 page

21. dated 2 August from Elinor.6 pages

22. dated 18 August from Ayanda.3 pages

23. dated 7 September from Ruth. 4 pages

24. dated 4 October from Elinor.2 pages

25. dated 26 October from Mlungisi [Jnr]. 2 pages

26. dated 26 October from Ginyi.2 pages

27. dated 26 November from Elinor. Christmas Card

28. dated 30 November from Mlungisi [Jnr].1 page

29. dated 1 December from Nkuli. 1 page

30. dated 4 December from Zwelakhe Moses. 5 pages

31. dated 8 December from Jeremiah Mbuyiselo Hlakula. 2 pages [in Xhosa]

 

 

Folder 11

1988: 5 letters

1. dated 25 April from R Vassen & Co. 2 pages [includes letter addressed to the Commanding Officer]

2. dated 1 May from Zama. 2 pages

3. dated 9 May – copy of telegram sent by Sisulu to Sammy Sisulu

4. dated 20 August from Lindi. 2 pages

5. dated 24 August from Elinor. 1 pages + notice announcing new baby and envelope

1989: 28 letters + 1 item

1. dated 5 February from Lungephi. 4 pages

2. dated 17 February from Elinor. 8 pages

3. dated 20 February from Dabulamanzi Tantsi. 1 page

4. dated 22 March from Dr. S Mjali. 5 pages

5. dated 27 March from Jongi. 3 pages

6. dated 27 April from Ntombi. 9 pages

7. dated 16 May from Albertina Sisulu. Telex: Birthday greetings

8. dated 17 May from Tini. 2 pages

9. dated 18 May from Elinor, Max and Family. Telex: Birthday greetings

10. dated 25 May from Jerry. 4 pages

11. dated 29 May from Walter Sisulu to Tini. 1 page

12. dated 29 May from Zohra. 2 pages

13. dated 9 June from Eddie and Eleanor. 1 page: Birthday greetings

14. dated 9 June from Nolusapho Hlakula. 1 page [in Xhosa]

15. dated 10 June. Receipt made out to Albertina Sisulu

16. dated 28 June from Ismail Ayob & Partners to the Commanding Officer, Pollsmoor.1 page

17. dated 26 June from Connie. 3 pages

18. dated 10 July from Lindi. 5 pages + copy of news clip

19. dated 21 July from Zohra. 1 page

20. dated 28 July from Ntsiki 1 page

21. dated cJuly from Lindi. 3 pages

23. dated 15 August from Donnah. 2 pages

24. dated 22 August from J M Hlakula. 1 page [in Xhosa]

25. dated 24 August from Elinor. 5 pages

26. dated 28 August from Lungi Junior. 3 pages

27. dated 14 September from Frieda M. 2 pages

28. dated 6 October from Vuyo. 2 pages

1 item: card with various quotations

 

 

Folder 12

Post release1989-1992: 4 letters + 2 items

1. dated 5 December 1989 from Joe [Matthews]. 2 pages

2. dated 13 February 1990 from Maggie [Resha]. 2 pages

3. dated 13 August 1990 from Mthetheleli. 1 page (first page/s missing)

4. dated 14 March 1992 to Albertina Sisulu from Elizabeth M Molathegi. 1 page (also another letter which seems a draft)

Item 1: telephone bill for Sept 1989

Item 2: Press cutting from Tanzanian newspaper, 24 Jan 1990