Women’s participation in politics they say has become the key to meaningful and sustainable development, as well as a flourishing democracy. One woman who is a testament to this fact is Lindiwe Sisulu, a South African politician who serves as the country’s Minister of Human Settlements, Water & Sanitation. Sisulu has made an exceptional impact in the Rainbow nation’s political arena, and her resume speaks for itself.
Beyond her current ministerial role, Lindiwe Sisulu has held several other strategic positions in the past. Notable among them include serving as the Minister of Human Settlements (2014-2018), Deputy Minister of Home Affairs (1996-2001), and Minister of Intelligence under President Thabo Mbeki (2001-2004), etc.
She also garnered huge fame through her participation as an ANC candidate in the 2017 presidential campaign. However, she later stepped down to contest for the post of Deputy President, which she lost to David Mabuza. Asides politics, Lindiwe is also a renowned women’s rights activist and prolific writer. She has released several publications and has also recorded a few awards in her name. How did she achieve all these? Let’s tell her story.
Lindiwe Sisulu was born in Johannesburg, SA
The daughter of African National Congress Leaders and anti-apartheid activists – Albertina Sisulu and Walter Sisulu, the minister was born as Lindiwe Nonceba Sisulu on the 10th of May 1954. She is a native of Johannesburg, South Africa. She is not the only child of her parents as she was raised alongside her two older brothers – Zwelakhe Sisulu, who is a journalist, and Max Sisulu, a politician.
Coming from a family well-grounded in politics, Lindiwe’s brother Zwelakhe established himself as a well-known journalist. Born in 1950, Zwelakhe, however, kicked the bucket in 2012. Before his demise, he had previously served as the CEO of South African Broadcasting Corporation, as well as the president of the Black Media Writers of South Africa. Her other brother Max, is a well-known politician and the former speaker of the South African National Assembly. The three siblings spent their formative years in their hometown, Johannesburg.
Her Activism Career Began While She Was In College
Although she has become a well-known figure in the South African political landscape, Lindiwe Sisulu started her activism career while she was still in college. Consequently, she was detained for one year (from 1975 to 1976) because of her involvement in anti-apartheid activities. Before then, she attended Waterford Kamhlaba United World College of Southern Africa, Swaziland, where she graduated from in 1973.
Thereafter, she obtained a Bachelor of Arts Degree and a Diploma in Education from the University of Swaziland in 1980. The following year, she bagged another degree in History from the same institution. Studying further, Lindiwe also got a master’s degree in History, and in 1989, she acquired an MPhil from the University of York, England.
In the late ’80s, the minister began her career, working as a teacher at Manzini Teachers Training College. After she was released from detention in 1976, she joined the military branch of the African National Congress, where she specialized in intelligence. A few years later, she was made an assistant to Jacob Zuma in the ANC’s intelligence services in 1990.
Lindiwe Sisulu Has Held Several Government Positions
The outstanding intelligence officer began her government career in 1994. At the time, she served as a member of parliament. Two years later, in 1996, she got her first government appointment, working as the deputy minister of home affairs. She served in that capacity until 2001 when she was made the Minister of Intelligence by President Thabo Mbeki, serving through 2004.
Later in 2004, she succeeded Rob Davies as Minister of Housing, a position she held until 2009. In the new dispensation, Lindiwe was picked by Jacob Zuma to serve as the Minister of Defense and Military Veterans, a post she held from 2009 to 2012. Her unparalleled records kept her soaring high as she climbs her career ladder. She went on to serve as the Minister of Public Service and Administration from 2012 to 2014. Afterward, she went back to the Ministry of Housing, now called the Ministry of Human Settlements, serving as its minister from 2014 to 2018.
She Once Contested for South Africa’s Presidency
It was in 2017 that Lindiwe Sisulu was nominated by some African National Congress (ANC) branches to contest for president. The minister joined the race to succeed former President Jacob Zuma as the ANC leader in 2017. Although Lindiwe qualified for that position in 2007 and 2012, it was in 2017 that she decided to give it a go. During the campaign, she pulled a lot of stunts, stating that “what we must do is to cleanse the ANC and recover its original values.” She further adopted the slogan “it’s a must”.
For those who say I can't be president because of my family name I say you are correct. I should be president because of my proven track record of delivery, my history as a leader with integrity. Let's recapture our path – It's a MUST! #Sisulu17 pic.twitter.com/Z7d6JJpQhY
— Lindiwe Sisulu (@LindiweSisuluSA) December 11, 2017
However, in December 2017, Lindiwe Sisulu announced her withdrawal from the presidential race. She opted to run for the position of Deputy President instead. During the election, she was defeated by David Mabuza who is serving as the 8th Deputy President of South Africa. Despite losing the seat of the Deputy President, Lindiwe has been an integral part of Cyril Ramaphosa’s government to date.
In 2018, under the Presidency of Cyril Ramaphosa, Sisulu was made the Minister of International Relations and Cooperation. The following year, she was returned as Minister of Human Settlements, Water & Sanitation, a position she holds to date.
Thank you President @CyrilRamaphosa for entrusting me to serve the people under the Department of Human Settlements, Water and Sanitation.
I will take on my tasks and serve with dignity, courage and respect. pic.twitter.com/WDUgEEGqJE
— Lindiwe Sisulu (@LindiweSisuluSA) May 30, 2019
Since the inception of her career, Sisulu has also got a good number of accolades for her outstanding performances. In 1992, she was awarded the Human Rights Center Fellowship in Geneva. 2004 saw her take home the Presidential Award for Housing Delivery from the Institute for Housing of South Africa. The following year, she also got the International Association for Housing Science Award.
See Also: Top 10 Richest Women In South Africa
What We Know About Sisulu’s Husband & Children
Lindiwe Sisulu was married to Prof. Rok Ajulu from 1996 to 2016. Her husband is a Kenyan academic and former professor at Witwatersrand University. Ajulu reportedly fled his country in the early 1980s, during the Moi repression when independent thinkers were targeted and attacked. However, in recent times, he regularly visits his home country as the political climate is relatively calm.
He usually resides in Bondo, his hometown, whenever he visits Kenya. Promising to never forget his Kenyan roots, the professor still maintains close ties with his associates from the repression era: Raila Odinga – former Kenyan Prime Minister, James Orengo – senator for Siaya County, and Peter Anyang’ Nyong’o – the Governor for Kisumu County (and father to Lupita Nyong’o).
Through her marriage with Professor Rok Ajulu, Lindiwe has four children, including two sons named Che Samora Ajulu and Vuyo Sisulu, and two daughters – Ayanda Sisulu and Ntsiki Sisulu. Before their marriage, her husband also had a son named Achieng Ajulu Bushell from a previous relationship. They also five grandchildren.
Prof. Rok Ajulu, academic & husband to SA Minister Lindiwe Sisulu passed on.
Condolences to his loved-ones. pic.twitter.com/hj78bcidMr
— Earl-Ryan September (@earlseptember) December 27, 2016
Lindiwe Sisulu and her husband were married for twenty years. Sadly, her husband died on December 26, 2016, after a long battle with pancreatic cancer. Ajulu died at the age of 66. According to their family spokesperson Steve Ajulu, he will be remembered for his utmost dedication to his family, wit, and compassionate heart. Sisulu’s husband inspired lots of students, and his legacy will continue to live for generations to come. He was buried in Dajo Ka Ajulu, Bondo in Kisumu, Kenya.