She was a warrior who fearlessly took on an entire regime
The passing of Winnie Madikizela- Mandela has left young South Africans deeply saddened. Linda Fekisi spoke to a few students about what she meant to them.
“It is only when all black groups, join hands and speak with one voice that we shall be a bargaining force which will decide its own destiny” –
1976, Winnie Madikizela-Mandela.
Nwabisa Timeni, 3rd year journalism student at UFS, believes that democracy in our country would have remained a dream for many black South Africans had it not been for the brave, sacrifices of Mama Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, Tata Nelson Mandela and many others who contributed.
“Mama Winnie stood and fought courageously against the Apartheid regime. She played a remarkable role in fighting for what she believed in, which was for our people having a voice. She also fought for us to live in a country where you are permitted to walk wherever you want to, send your children to whichever school you want to in a control free country.
What Mama Winnie did for me was the mere fact that she allowed me to have a voice of my own, especially as a young black woman who resides in South Africa. Today, I can speak my mind and freely express myself without having to fear anything and if it happens that I get punished for voicing my thoughts? I shall continue to rise and never submit to those who feel entitled to silence me, a young black female. I can be that today and I am that today, because of Mama Winnie. May her beautiful, brave and phenomenal soul rest in peace.”
Naledi Moreketla, a Bachelors of Accounting graduate from UFS, believes there were many sides to Mama Winnie, but firing all these sides was her in dominatable spirit.
“I feel like she was multi-dimensional. I look at her and I read some of her stories and I see how pain can change you. I have learned that pain ignites an energy. What I have learnt from her is to transform the pain into an energy of activism. There was no doubt that Mama Winnie wanted justice. Her feisty attitude said it all. But all that came from a place of love for her people. What I love about her, despite being the product of her enemies and the masses of her country, is that Mama Winnie was a mother! I can even feel that motherly love from watching her on TV. She was communal. She didn’t belong to herself. She belonged to the people. That is why she was so deeply loved.”
Thabang Modise, a UFS student, says we lost an icon.
“Oh death, where is your sting? Oh death, where is your victory? On 2 April 2018 the world lost a great icon of the revolutionary struggle of the people of South Africa, a Mother, a Comrade and a Friend, Mama Winnie Nomzamo Madikizela-Mandela. Lala Ngoxolo, Mother of the Nation. Your spirit lives on.” Listen to his audio below.
Murendeni Makhokha, a media studies student at University of Venda, describes Mama Winnie as a fallen giant.
“We are still enjoying the good fruits that she gave us while she was still alive. Those fruits are the ones the nation still seeks. That is why the ANC said that Winnie Madikizela-Mandela did not die, she multiplied. To me she was more than a role model. I do not know if there is any other term that I can use which is bigger than the word role model. She became the voice of the voiceless (blacks) during apartheid. That is one of the most important things that I have learnt from her. She was very confident in whatever she did because deep inside her heart she always meant what she said and she did what she said. She was a very courageous person. She was brave when she fought apartheid. This woman meant a lot to my life and that is why I don’t fear anything when I call her “mother of the nation”. Today I am raising up my voice with a broken heart to say may her soul rest in peace.
Nthabiseng Mokoena, a 1st year Journalism student at UFS says Winnie Madikizela-Mandela was the ultimate feminist.
“She was also a humanist who went above and beyond in building our nation. She, like Florence Nightingale, kept the light on through the darkest night of the struggle. She is also a warrior who fearlessly took on an entire regime without concern for her own wellbeing. She inspires me to boldly go in the direction of my dreams.”
Zekulunge Bobotyana, a 2nd year Journalism Student at the UFS, says the influences of this strong female leader also equally touched the hearts of many young South African men.
“Mama Nomzamo Madikizela-Mandela was and will forever remain our iron woman. As a young black man I am enjoying the fruits of her toil, and that of many less-celebrated liberation icons. I can now walk freely without fear on the basis of my skin colour. The passing of this iconic womxn is a reminder that I need to actively tackle the social ills of my time.”
1936: Born on September 26 as Nomzamo Winifred Zanyiwe Madikizela in the village of Mbongweni, Bizana, in the Eastern Cape province.
1945: At only nine years old, Winnie had her first conscious experience of what the strictures and injustices of racism and apartheid meant in South Africa. News had just arrived in Bizana that the Second World War had ended, and celebrations had been scheduled. Along with her siblings, Winnie begged their father to attend, and eventually he acquiesced to their demand. However, upon arriving at the town hall, it was discovered that these celebrations were “for whites only” and the children were forced to remain outside with their father while the white population enjoyed the merriment within. The obvious injustice struck a deep blow for Winnie, and thereafter she grew increasingly sensitized to the inequality of the world around her.
1953: Upon her father’s advice, Winnie was admitted to the Jan Hofmeyr School of Social Work in Johannesburg.
1955: Finishing at the top of her class, Winnie obtained a degree in social work and was offered a scholarship for further study in the USA. However, soon after receiving the scholarship offer, she was offered the position of medical social worker at the Baragwanath Hospital in Johannesburg, making her the first qualified, Black member of staff to fill that post.
1957: She meets Nelson Mandela during the Treason Trial
1958: Marries Nelson Mandela, a lawyer and leading member of the anti-apartheid African National Congress (ANC). In October 1958, Winnie took part in a mass action which mobilised women to protest against the Apartheid government’s infamous pass laws. This protest in Johannesburg followed a similar action that had taken place in Pretoria in August 1956.
1959: Winnie and Nelson’s daughter Zenani is born.
1960: Their daughter Zindziwa is born.
1961: The Treason trialists are all acquitted, allowing the Mandela family (which now includes toddlers Zenani and Zindzi) a semblance of normal life for eight months.
1962: Mandela is captured near Howick and arrested. He’s later sentenced to life in prison in 1964 at the conclusion of the Rivonia Trial. Madikizela-Mandela, meanwhile, is subjected to a run of banning orders, preventing her from working and socialising. She’s restricted to Orlando, Soweto and sends her daughters to boarding school in Swaziland. She is slapped with a banning order.
1969: Madikizela-Mandela is detained under the Terrorism Act and placed in solitary confinement for 17 months.
1970: She’s placed under house arrest, an order she flouts repeatedly.
1973: In May 1973 Winnie was arrested again, this time for meeting with another banned person, her good friend and photographer for Drum magazine, Peter Magubane. She was handed a twelve month sentence to be served at Kroonstad’s women’s prison, however, this imprisonment was much less arduous than her previous incarceration and Winnie was released after six months. The banning order expires and is not renewed.
1976: During the youth uprisings, she establishes the Black Women’s Federation and Black Parents’ Association, both aligned to the black consciousness movement.
1977: She’s detained under the Internal Security Act and banished to Brandfort in the (then) Orange Free State, where she sets up a crèche and clinic with Dr Abu Baker Asvat.
1986: Madikizela-Mandela returns home to Soweto shortly after making her infamous Munsieville speech, in which she declares: “Together, hand in hand, with our boxes of matches and our necklaces, we shall liberate this country.” The conduct of members of the Mandela United Football Club, young men who acted as her bodyguards, causes some anti-apartheid groups to distance themselves from her.
1990: Mandela is released from prison, with Madikizela-Mandela beaming at his side.
1991: Madikizela-Mandela is elected to the ANC’s National Executive Committee (NEC) after its unbanning. She’s also found guilty of kidnapping youth activist Stompie Seipei and sentenced to six years in jail (reduced to a fine of R15 000 on appeal).
1992: She is forced out of all executive positions in the ANC after allegations of corruption and mismanagement. After resigning her ANC positions, she makes a surprising comeback as President of the ANC Women’s League (ANCWL). She separates from Mandela.
1994: She’s appointed Deputy Minister of Arts, Culture, Science & Technology, in Mandela’s unity government. The next year, she is sacked for insubordination, and financial mismanagement but keeps her position as member of parliament and head of the Women’s League.
1996: Her divorce from Mandela is finalized, after four years of separation.
1998: The Truth and Reconciliation Commission implicates her in torture, murder and abduction during the struggle against apartheid.
2003 – 2004: She’s found guilty of 43 counts of fraud and 25 of theft. An appeal judge at the Pretoria Supreme Court overturns the theft conviction, but upholds the fraud charge, handing her a three-and-a-half-year suspended sentence. She also resigns as President of the ANCWL.
2007: She’s elected a member of the ANC’s NEC in Polokwane.
2009: Manages to secure the fifth place on the ANC’s electoral list for the 2009 general election.
2013: She’s portrayed in the film, Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom, by British actress Naomie Harris.
2016: Madikizela-Mandela celebrates her 80th birthday at a gala fit for a queen at Cape Town’s Mount Nelson Hotel with family, friends and colleagues including Julius Malema and President Cyril Ramaphosa who at the time was Deputy President.
January 2018: Madikizela-Mandela is awarded an honorary Doctor of Laws degree in recognition of her fight against apartheid by Makerere University in Kampala, Uganda.
April 2018: Madikizela-Mandela passes away in Johannesburg.