Albertina Sisulu, wife of one of the imprisoned leaders of the outlawed African National Congress, Walter Sisulu, has been arrested by South African police only five weeks after the government lifted a banning order that had kept her under house arrest for 17 years.

Sisulu, 65, appeared briefly in magistrate's court here today to be charged with participating in activities of the banned congress. No details of the charge were given.

She was refused bail on orders of the attorney general of Transvaal province and her lawyer, Priscilla Jana, said court officials told her the case would not be tried before November.

Sisulu's was one of nearly 60 banning orders allowed to lapse at the end of June, which reduced the number of people restricted in this way to 11--one of them Winnie Mandela, wife of the leader of the African National Congress, Nelson Mandela, who is serving a life sentence with Walter Sisulu.

Sisulu was the best known of those freed and her arrest has caused some here to question the government's motive in lifting the bannings.

"I suspect this is going to be the new strategy," said Jana, whose own banning order also was lifted. "They will lift banning orders to give a good impression, then harass people by prosecuting them for every little thing." She said four other people have been arrested on similar charges.

Meanwhile the Transvaal regional council of the United Democratic Front, a new alliance of more than 80 black organizations, announced today that it had elected Sisulu its president despite her arrest.

The front was formed last week to fight government proposals to change South Africa's constiution in a way that will give limited political rights to some minority groups but still exclude the black majority.