Zuma remembers Sisulu
Walter Sisulu, who would have turned 100 on May 18, was a strong but humble person who lived with a deep sense of purpose, President Jacob Zuma said.
Sisulu, a freedom fighter and former ANC deputy president, died in May nine years ago. His centenary birthday will be celebrated with a series of events over the coming year.
On Friday, celebrations kicked off with a fund-raising breakfast for the Walter Sisulu University Foundation in Johannesburg.
Zuma said Sisulu's life was a reminder to the nation that it had "an abiding responsibility" to guard its hard-earned democracy.
Zuma extended his best wishes to the Sisulu family, saying Sisulu was remembered as an outstanding South African freedom fighter, statesman and leader.
His former cellmate and Rivonia trialist, Ahmed Kathrada, told the gathering that Sisulu was passionate about education.
"Despite having no formal education, he was an educated man because what Walter showed was that you do not need a certificate to be educated."
Kathrada spent an hour reminiscing about his old friend, telling stories of Sisulu's generosity and courage.
For the last four years of their incarceration, before being freed by the apartheid government in 1989, the two men were cellmates.
In one of their many conversations, Kathrada said Sisulu told him if he was sent to the gallows he would go singing.
"We must do this for the sake of our youth, so that they know, from our strong voices, that we went without fear and that our deaths were not the end of the liberation movement," Sisulu told him.
Sisulu's daughter-in-law and biographer, Elinor Sisulu, said there was often speculation about why Sisulu had dropped out of school and battled to read and write.
"Despite his lack of formal education, he was able to hold his own with great intellects."
Elinor said she suspected her father-in-law had suffered from dyslexia, which had limited his formal learning.
"It is disabilities like this that we have to consider in education to ensure people don't fall by the wayside," she said.