2
BECOMING A NOTABLE

Nelson Mandela's first encounter with Walter Sisulu represented the beginning of his most enduring friendship. Sisulu was six years older than Mandela, also born in Thembuland, in the village of Qutubeni as a member of the Gcina clan. He was the son of Alice Sisulu, born out of wedlock, and his father was Victor Dickinson, a white government official. Dickinson acknowledged paternity of Walter and contributed financially to his early upbringing but he did not live with Alice and after a few years he moved away and lost touch with his African family. Sisulu spent his childhood in his aunt's house at Cofimvaba, dropping out of school in Standard V and leaving home to work at the mines in Johannesburg in 1928. Just 18 he was deemed to be too young for underground duties and he was released from his contract; for the next few years he found employment in a variety of unskilled jobs before his dismissal after leading a strike at a biscuit factory. He then began a career as a small businessman, selling advertising for Bantu World, the main African newspaper, published weekly, identifying potential African account holders for the Union Bank before, in 1939, opening Sitha Investments, an estate agency that bought and sold property in the two Johannesburg neighbourhoods where Africans could buy land, Alexandra and Sophiatown. By this stage Sisulu had become a well-known personality around Orlando, the township to which he had moved in 1934. He led the Orlando Music Corporation, a successful choir, as well as joining a Xhosa cultural association, the Orlando Brotherly Association. The Association held meetings at which its members would read aloud and then discuss Xhosa epic poetry. He also began to engage himself in politics: throughout the 1940s he chaired a local branch of the African National Congress (ANC), then a body with only a few thousand

-19-

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Mandela: A Critical Life
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Preface vii
  • List of Plates xiv
  • List of Abbreviations xvi
  • 1: Childhood and Upbringing 1
  • 2: Becoming a Notable 19
  • 3: Volunteer-In-Chief 43
  • 4: Making a Messiah 81
  • 5: Trials 103
  • 6: Prisoner 466/64 116
  • 7: Leading from Prison 147
  • 8: Messianic Politics and the Transition to Democracy 167
  • 9: Embodying the Nation 204
  • Endnotes 227
  • Chronology 252
  • Further Reading 262
  • Index 265
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