Born into politics

Sechaba Molefe

Sechaba Molefe

Mlungisi Sisulu's destiny was pre-determined. Being born into one of South Africa's political dynasties, he had too many role models - from his political activist grandparents, Albertina and Walter Sisulu, to his father Max, uncle Zwelakhe and aunt Lindiwe.

The son of Max and Mercy Vuthela, Mlungisi was the charge d'affaires of the South African Mission in Khartoum, Sudan, at the time of his death.

He was on holiday with his family in London en route from Rome when he fell ill. Mlungisi died on January 3 in Essex, England, from cerebral malaria.

Born in Moscow on August 20 1966 to political exiles, Lungi as he was better known, returned to South Africa from Russia, aged five, to live with his grandmothers Greta Ncapayi and Albertina Sisulu in Soweto.

This week, his mother remembered those early years. She said the young Mlungisi spoke only Russian and was very frustrated that he couldn't communicate with his grandparents and other children in the neighbourhood. But it was not long before he learnt the language as he interacted with other children.

"He was lively, energetic and active," his mother said.

A naturally patient person, his pet hate was unreasonable people. When family and close friends had social functions, he was the life of the party.

He started school in Dube, Soweto, then moved to Orlando West High School. He was part of a generation whose schooling was constantly interrupted by the political turbulence of the 1970s and '80s. His primary school years were disrupted by the June 1976 uprising.

As a youth, Mlungisi joined the Congress of South African Students and went on to become chairman of the Dube branch of the Soweto Youth Congress.

His first brush with the law was in 1986 when he was detained for nine months - becoming a third-generation Sisulu to be thrown behind prison bars after his grandfather and uncle Zwelakhe.

Mlungisi, who had a very close relationship with his grandfather, visited him regularly while the struggle giant was imprisoned on Robben Island."They were close. When Lungi visited him, they discussed everything,"saidhis mother.

In 1998, Mlungisi graduated from Hope College in Michigan, US, with a Bachelor of Arts degree in political science. He later completed his Masters in international relations. His first posting was in the South African embassy in Prague, Czech Republic. In 2006, he was posted to Sudan where he was head of mission at the time of his death.

Mlungisi married Kundi Jangano last August and a second ceremony was planned for April in South Africa.

He will be buried at West Park Cemetery in Johannesburg on Sunday. The funeral service, at Walter Sisulu Hall in Randburg, starts at 10am.