Walter Sisulu is nothing less than inspiring. Hence we should be inspired by his life and principles as we take a leaf from it.

Although he never finished primary school, one of the universities bears his name and he is also the honorary president of the gallant students’ organisation, SASCO. Lest some comrades become jealous, let me not mention the doctorate bestowed on him.

At Robben Island, the self-taught comrade Walter Sisulu was the human political encyclopaedia to educated men who had an honour of being imprisoned with him. In the Long Walk to Freedom (1994:557), the iconic Rolihlahla Nelson Mandela wrote: ‘It was Walter’s course that was at the heart of all our education… For many of these young men, it was the only political education they ever received’.

It is seldom mentioned if, at all that he did not only groom Rholihlahla Nelson Mandela and Oliver Reginald Tambo, he also spent money on their education. This was an investment on the generational mission of political freedom in his generation’s lifetime. We must take his example by investing money, energy and effort into our generational mission of economic emancipation and free education in our lifetime if we are ever going to taste victory.

As a non-sexist and non-racial intellectual activist, Xhamela ensured that he inculcates these principles into the congress movement which he had an influence in its roots. It is very vital that we continue these principles as they are correctly part of our six principles as enshrined in the organisation’s section 4 of the constitution.

Xhamela organised politically even when the apartheid authorities had banned him. Today we are able to talk about the Congress of the People conference which adopted the Freedom Charter and the defiance campaign which contributed to political freedom because of the risks he took and his selfless work as the movement’s leader. Even the ANC can sing loudly about his organising skills and political dedication because he exerted himself on the relaunch after the unbanning of political organisations as an organiser.

Rarely do we hear about the white man that is his biological father because he wore his poor mother’s surname and identity with pride. He even influenced his wife to join the struggle and promoted women in the movement. As we celebrate the month of August, it is only progressive to pay tribute to such comrades who are truly non-sexist in practice. He never judged women unfairly and didn’t undermine their capacity as other comrades do today.

Even though Xhamela had an upright, inspiring life craved by many comrades, he was content with being behind the scenes when credit was to be taken whilst other comrades couldn’t wait to shine in his sun. This characteristic is only possessed by a rare breed of activists we need today. He would lament the tendency of some comrades who are lazy – never dirtying their hands – but quick to take credit today.

Let us be inspired by Walter Sisulu’s life and take his example as we advance the struggle for students.

Comrade Dinileminyanya Sandile Latha is a member of the Steve Biko Branch and he writes in his personal capacity

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