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South Africa declares days of mourning for anti-apartheid icon

By Faith Karimi, CNN
Albertina Sisulu, president of the ANC Women's League, in Blackpool, 1992. Sisulu died June 3, 2011 aged 92.
Albertina Sisulu, president of the ANC Women's League, in Blackpool, 1992. Sisulu died June 3, 2011 aged 92.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Albertina Sisulu and her husband played a pivotal role in the fight to end apartheid
  • President Jacob Zuma declares days of national mourning
  • He says flags would fly at half-mast until the day of burial
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(CNN) -- South Africa declared national days of mourning Saturday to honor Albertina Sisulu, an icon of the anti-apartheid movement who died this week.

Sisulu was 92.

The president said flags would fly at half-mast and mourning would last until her burial, which will take place with military honors. Funeral plans for Sisulu, who died Thursday, have not been finalized.

Sisulu was married to anti-apartheid leader Walter Sisulu for nearly 60 years. The couple played a pivotal role in the anti-apartheid movement, and her husband was imprisoned for decades with former South African President Nelson Mandela.

Affectionately called "Ma Sisulu," she was also detained numerous times and was held in solitary confinement for seven weeks in 1963, the ruling African National Congress said.

As soon as she was free, she took to the streets to rally against the trials of anti-apartheid movement leaders.

"Soon after her husband was sentenced to life imprisonment in 1964, Albertina was served with a harsh five-year order prohibiting her from attending any gatherings of more than two persons, confining her to her location and preventing her from any political activities," the ruling party said.

Years later, she faced various bans, including one confining her to her home at nights, weekends and public holidays.

Despite the bans, she continued with her quest for liberation.

"Although politics has given me a rough life, there is absolutely nothing I regret about what I have done and what has happened to me and my family," she said, according to the ruling party. "Instead, I have been strengthened and feel more of a woman than I would otherwise have felt if my life was different."

Sisulu and her husband dedicated their lives to the struggle for freedom in South Africa, and endured banishment, detention and humiliation, said President Jacob Zuma.

"Mama Sisulu has over the decades been a pillar of strength not only for the Sisulu family, but also the entire liberation movement as she reared, counseled, nursed and educated most of the leaders and founders of the democratic South Africa," Zuma said.

The president said the nation has lost a leader and a role model.

Sisulu founded the Federation of South African Women and other civic groups. She gave political guidance and served as a mother figure to activists and other civic organizations, the African National Congress said.

"South Africa remains eternally grateful and indebted to this stalwart of the liberation and an assuming leader of all races of our people," Zuma said in a statement.

Sisulu is survived by her children and grandchildren. Her husband died in 2003.

 
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