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In Memoriam: Zwelakhe Sisulu

16 October on Africa, Digitization, Multimedia & Digital Archives  

MATRIX would like to take time at the beginning of this week to mourn and reflect on the recent passing of Zwelakhe Sisulu, a dedicated South African journalist, businessman, and activist. Son of ANC stalwart Walter Sisulu (Nelson Mandela’s friend and mentor), Zwelakhe Sisulu faced harassment and imprisonment during the struggle against apartheid as a result of his activities as an advocate for freedom of expression and a practitioner of alternative media.

Footage of Zwelakhe Sisulu’s activist work can be found on the Community Video Education Trust (CVET) website at http://cvet.org.za/index.php . In this video, taken on March 29, 1986, Zwelakhe Sisulu reviews and evaluates the South African government’s plan to institute a permanent State of Emergency in the country. Sisulu speaks passionately about the injustices this plan has imposed upon the people of South Africa and urges his listeners to understand the crucial moment they were living in:

I want to make it clear that these aren’t empty slogans. When we say that we’ve reached a decisive historical moment, we do not say so because those are the types of things that are said at conferences. We say it because we believe that indeed we have reached a decisive moment and this is based on a careful assessment of our current reality.

Segments from this rare footage were used by the Sisulu family to compile a video tribute of his life and work. Our experiences this past week have proven the importance and value of digitizing and disseminating cultural heritage materials online. Had this clip not been digitized and made freely accessible online, it is possible that the footage would have been stored in such a way that would have made its rapid discovery, sharing, and re-use in a memorial film on short notice impossible.

We are also thankful to our partners at CVET for allowing us to take part in the important and exciting work of preserving cultural heritage materials. We encourage you to visit the CVET website to familiarize yourself with the project and learn more about Zwelakhe Sisulu and the causes he dedicated his life to.