Babalwa Mhlauli

Lovelight flower Babalwa


"My mother said I must always be intolerant of ignorance but understanding of illiteracy. That some people, unable to go to school, were more educated and more intelligent than college professors."

Maya Angelou


Here comes peace

Here comes pure love

Here comes light

Here comes joy

Here comes richness

Here comes wholesomeness

Here comes the liberator!


Ohhh Grandfather Walter Sisulu

When I think of you

I see Loveliness

As I walk home under a star lit evening

I hear;

"Our Father which art in heaven,

Hallowed be thy name,

Thy kingdom come,

Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.


Give us this day our daily bread.

And forgive us our debts,

as we forgive our debtors.


And lead us not into temptation,

but deliver us from evil:

For thine is the kingdom,

and the power, and the glory,

for ever."      -- Amen.


Suddenly I realize that you're a saint grandfather. Because when others sought to demean me, when they sought to shrink me, when they sought to reduce me, you silenced, disciplined them and they were covered in garments of shame.

You said;


"That will never happen, higher and higher you shall rise and be all that we sacrificed and died for!"


You challenged me to reach my utmost best. You gave me far greater tasks to master and to accomplish.

You gave others a fair chance to do right, but when they continued to mock,you took me to even higher and higher places. Places they thought were only reserved for them, their friends and family member, perhaps even those who bribe them.

You raised me up with that great smile in your face. Always the father of a much higher plane. The father who sees far into the future while active in the present moment.

The Father of our Nation for all time to come.


I was six years old when I first heard our late father speak about you grandfather Walter. Your image was crystal clear to me even though I had never seen a photograph of you. When I finally saw you standing next to grandfather Mandela on that balcony on the 11th of February, the day grandfather Mandela walked a free a for the first time in 27 years and addressed our country and the world for the very first time, I was transfixed. I was looking but I was truly enraptured, I was seeing men of honor that I've known all my life, that I've known eternally, I felt them in my spirit. I was elevated, I felt no distance between us . I was about 12 years old and I went to the grand parade with a neighbor, but I soon realized that I was alone and I just didn't care. I felt so safe and deeply connected to our founding fathers. I felt no distance between us whatsoever, I'll never ever forget it. I was small, it was crowded yet I could see them so clearly. People kept asking who's child is this standing here all alone? I heard them, but not really because I needed to hear every word Grandfather Mandela was saying. I can still hear his vouce, I can still hear his words. I just loved basking in their love and tenderness. I just wanted to feel it all, feel it all, feel it all!


A few years down the line I find myself in conversation with grandfather Mandela not once but twice. It felt like my heart had finally arrived in that special place of promise with all that it entailed, with all that it meant in that moment, but also throughout the span of my life.


Grandfather Mandela wrote on May 05, 2003 (yesterday was the 5, 2014)


"Xhamela (Walter Sisulu) is no more. May he live forever!


His absence has carved a void. A part of me is gone.


Our paths first intersected in 1941. During the past 62 years our lives have been intertwined. We shared the joy of living, and the pain. Together we shared ideas, forged common commitments. We walked side by side through the valley of death, nursing each other’s bruises, holding each other up when our steps faltered. Together we savoured the taste of freedom.


From the moment when we first met he has been my friend, my brother, my keeper, my comrade.


His passing was not unexpected. We had long passed the age when either of us would protest against the brevity of life. At the end of the Rivonia trial in 1964, when we faced the prospect of the death sentence, we knew, we resolved to walk the plank, not protesting our innocence, but proclaiming the justness of our ideals and the certainty of their triumph. I know he planned to meet the hangman with a song on his lips.


Yet a silence engulfs me, an emptiness creeps in my being. He would not want it that way. He would want me to exorcise this emptiness by looking back on our lives so that we may look ahead with greater resolve and optimism.


By ancestry, I was born to rule. Xhamela helped me understand that my real vocation was to be a servant of the people.


I was drawn inexorably into his circle of friends. We would gather at his Orlando home. His mother was always able to feed us, hordes of us. We nourished ourselves on our conversation – a pot of boiling ideas about freeing our people from bondage, about placing Africa on a pedestal.


There was Anton Lembede, who held Master of Arts and Bachelor of Laws degrees; a fiery personality espousing a militant African nationalism. There was Peter “AP” Mda with a keen analytical mind. Where Lembede was prone to heady, almost mystical flights of ideas, AP was sparing and judicious with words, a model of simplicity and clarity. There were Oliver Tambo with his sharply mathematical mind, Dr Lionel Majombozi, Victor Mbobo, William Nkomo a medical student, Jordan Ngubane a journalist, David Bopape and so many others. Out of that ferment of ideas and personalities was born the idea of the ANC Youth League.


Whenever I cast my mind back I am struck by Xhamela’s qualities. He had little formal education – he left school after standard four. But he was deep in that circle. His home was the centre of our being together. He held his own; he interacted with ease and without a trace of inferiority. He was attracted to each of us, yet he was the magnet that drew us all together.


That was his hallmark: an ability to attract and work together with highly competent and talented young men, a ready sounding board for ideas. He was a powerful influence who exuded respect for their talents and a born diplomat.


He was courageous and his quiet self-confidence and clarity of vision marked him out as a leader among us. When we established the ANCYL in 1944 we elected Walter treasurer. When in 1949 we radicalized the ANC with the adoption of the militant Programme of Action, we elected Walter the Secretary General of the ANC. In 1952 when we planned and launched the Defiance Campaign during which almost 8 500 volunteers courted and went to prison, Walter, with Yusuf Cachalia, was the joint secretary of the National Action Council. When we founded Umkhonto We Sizwe in 1961, Walter was on the High Command.


However, he neither sought nor wielded his authority by virtue of office. He was ever ready to draw others into leadership. When he was banned by the apartheid regime from holding office in the ANC he smoothed the way for OR to take up the post as the Secretary General. He never asked of others what he was not prepared to do himself.


Rivalry between organizations was to be expected in prison. Many among us prisoners were perceived to be leaders of one or other organization. But all prisoners saw Xhamela as the leader of all of us, irrespective of the organization one belonged to – a leader of the entire people.


Since the birth of democracy many among us have travelled the world and received numerous awards acclaiming one’s leadership. With or without any such awards Walter’s status as a national leader is beyond challenge.


When one lives as closely as Walter and I have it is easy to take each other for granted. I felt secure in the knowledge that he would be there for me.


In a peasant society a person walking with a stout stick, a staff – longer than an ordinary walking stick and lesser than a pole – is a common sight. One always has it around. It aids one maintain a steady, firm gait. It is a crutch one leans on, helps you not to falter in your walk. It is also a weapon to help one defend oneself against any unforeseen danger that may arise in the journey. With it one feels secure and safe.


Such was Xhamela to me.


He was blessed with that quality that always saw the good in others, and therefore he was able to bring out that goodness. He had an inexhaustible capacity to listen to others, and therefore he was able to encourage others to explore ideas.


Of course, there were moments when I found him vexing and frustrating.


I grew into the idea of an ANCYL from a position of militant African nationalism. Our first objective was to radicalize the ANC, to shape it into militant leader of the African people mobilized into mass struggle. I have often told the anecdote about how the three of us – Xhamela, Oliver Tambo and I – went to a joint meeting determined to force the calling off of the joint Votes for All Campaign, which we felt had been pre-empted by the Communist Party and thus undermined the leading role of the ANC; how Xhamela broke rank and supported the continuation of the campaign once Ismail Meer acknowledged our criticisms and appealed for the campaign to continue in the interests of the larger good. In recounting the story I always made Walter the butt of our jokes and told how OR and I walked on one pavement, leaving Walter to walk alone on the other, as we headed for Park Station to make our way home. In the telling I make out that Walter broke ranks because Ismail flattered Walter once Walter wavered in the face of Ismail’s ready acceptance of our criticisms.


It is time to make amends, though Walter, without fail, endured my telling the anecdote with a chuckle and a sharp repartee. Xhamela shifted because he had an abiding idea of what the ANC should become. He firmly held to the view that the ANC should be a uniting force of the African people. Only this would shape the platform for the ANC to claim the leadership and unite all the oppressed against the system of white minority rule. More than the flattery, it was Ismail’s appeal not to allow mistakes made in the launching of the campaign to confuse the people by calling off the campaign that found a resonance in Walter’s core ideas.


Today the ANC and through it the African people are able and required to set the tone and national agenda for our country. The real challenge is to formulate and present this in a way that unites all South Africans – black and white – to share and work together in the common objective of eradicating poverty and creating a prosperous, non-racist and non-sexist South Africa. Walter’s vision of an ANC that unites and constantly expands its support across South African society remains as valid today as is was at that time.


There were also times when Xhamela and I crossed swords in the National Executive Committee of the ANC. At times the clashes were so sharp that some of the comrades were taken aback. Such incidents happened before we went to prison, while we were in prison and even after we came out of prison. We had grown up and lived in the strong culture of vigorous debate in the ANC. None of these sharp exchanges were allowed to harm our friendship and the bonds that held us in the ANC. In fact when we differed with each other or another comrade, we in the ANC would go out of our way to draw the one we differed with closer into the ANC. Walter, as Secretary General of the ANC went out of his way to cultivate such a culture of vigorous debate, free of any trace of vindictiveness.


Despite the pain of struggle, Walter in his inimitable way would claim that life has been bounteous to him.


First and foremost he would claim the gift of a lifelong partnership with his wife, Albertina, and their family.


Living one’s beliefs combined with a generosity of spirit are qualities that both Walter and Albertina shared. It has made them a very special couple who have moved together in thought and action at all times. Because they as a couple were totally giving of themselves, they have at all times been secure in their relationship.


Above all, he would claim the gift, the privilege, of having lived to see freedom reign in South Africa.


In a sense I feel cheated by Walter. If there be another life beyond this physical world I would have loved to be there first so that I could welcome him. Life has determined otherwise. I now know that when my time comes, Walter will be there to meet me, and I am almost certain he will hold out an enrolment form to register me into the ANC in that world, cajoling me with one of his favourite songs we sang when mobilizing people behind the Freedom Charter:


Libhaliwe na iGama lakho


kuloMqulu weNkululeko


Vuma silibhale kuloMqulu




(Has your name been enrolled


in the struggle for freedom


Permit us to register you


in the struggle for freedom.)


I shall miss his friendship and counsel. Till we meet again, Hamba kahle, Xhamela. Qhawe la ma Qhawe. (Go well, Rest in Peace, Xhamela. Hero among heroes.)

N R Mandela"


Today South Africans are going to exercise their freedom to vote. Who can ever forget the very first time we were able to vote. I was too young then, so I watched on the side lines yet excited that I would be able to vote in a couple of years. Today I'm however thinking about the missing girls in Nigeria. I know what it's like to be them. I do pray that somewhere, somehow they will be reunited with their families safe and sound. I know that most human rights leaders have no compassion whatsoever! Yet I've seen miracles in my own life when others thought you'll never rise, God turns around and ridicules them.


"I will contend with those who contend with you." Scripture


Who could have ever imagined that I'd walk into a bookshop, open Hillary Clinton's book and read about how my Truth and Reconciliation Testimony affected her?


Who could have ever imagined that God would choose  19 year old girl to testify and use that testimony as well as others, an example to illustrate the spirit of greater love, honor, grace nobility and peace. The capacity of endless beauty and boundless goodness in the human spirit.


"Nelson Mandela is a spectacular example of the spirit of forgiveness and reconciliation. But we were humbled to witness other examples from so-called ordinary people. In my theology no one is ordinary. They did what seemed to come naturally; to forgive, even sometimes to embrace their former tormentors. They must have learned much of this behaviour in their homes. Babalwa Mhlauli was a teenager when her father was brutally murdered by the apartheid Special Branch, together with three of his comrades. Their car was set alight. He had 43 wounds in his body. His right hand had been chopped off – discovered later preserved in alcohol at the police station and used to intimidate those who were arrested. Babalwa described how the police had harassed her family. Aware of the brutal killing of her father, she said to a hushed packed city hall in East London, “We would like to forgive, but we want to know whom to forgive.” She was still too young to have developed this attitude on her own. She must have learned it at home."

Archbishop Desmond Tutu


Yes my grandparents planted, watered and nurtured love in the recesses of my soul and spirit. Then they watched it blossom. And this is evident in all that I do, hope and dream of.


This is the reason we are able to vote today. Any human being who deprives another of their dignity and human rights knowing fully well how many sacrificed in order for us to be free today is simply heartless and inhumane.


Maya Angelou says;

"The first time someone shows you who they are, believe them."


I want to say that you must never be defeated. Don't look to human beings for salvation, look to the God of the impossible. God makes a way when there seems to be no way. I've seen him perform these miracles in my life constantly. It would be at times when others are cruel. Just smile and keep walking, because you know for sure that God is in control. But most importantly you know that God wanted to reveal what lies hidden in their hearts. God wanted to show you exactly who is real and who isn't for your own protection and well being.


Dr Martin Luther King, Jr informs us that those who are neutral in situations of injustice, have chosen the side of the oppressor.


"Be still and know that I am God." Scripture


May the grace of God be within you forever more.


Thank You all so much.