Winnie: Epitome of hope and resilience


The late Winnie Madikizela-Mandela

As World leaders congregate today (Saturday) in South Africa to pay their last respects to one of Africa’s most recognisable freedom icons, Winnie Mandela, some of her country men and women feel she was vilified wrongly. Madikizela-Mandela, an anti-apartheid activist in her own right, died on April 2 aged 81. She will be honoured with a State funeral, President Cyril Ramaphosa announced, as he described her as a “champion of justice and equality” and a “voice for the voiceless.” ALSO READ: The house Winnie Mandela called home Madikizela-Mandela was the second of Mandela’s three wives, married to him from 1958 to 1996. Mandela, who died in 2013, was imprisoned throughout most of their marriage, and Madikizela-Mandela was also jailed for months and placed under house arrest for years for activism against the apartheid regime. Mother of the Nation When Mandela came out of jail, he led the country on a path of reconciliation and declared he had forgiven his jailers. But he could not pardon his wife for being unfaithful. As the last curtains fall for a woman who was demonised by both the apartheid regime and the new administration led by her ex-husband, South Africans are outraged at how the Mother of the Nation was betrayed. Avoid fake news! Subscribe to the Standard SMS service and receive factual, verified breaking news as it happens. Text the word ‘NEWS’ to 22840 On the day Winnie’s memorial service was held, a documentary, Winnie, was aired by eNCA. It chronicled how she was back stabbed by her government and ANC, who threw her to the Truth Justice and Reconciliation Commission (TJRC) led by Nobel Laurette Desmond Tutu. She was forced to apologise for the murder of a teen tortured by a vigilante group. This earned her the tag “mugger of the Nation” . Winnie, according to a South African publication City Press, is quoted in the documentary saying: “It was an unhealthy coincidence in my mind that this must happen a few days before the national conference. I was the only one in the ANC who was taken to the TJRC by her own government. I was seething with rage. He (Tutu) was acting there for the public, acting for Stratcom” she says. “To this day, I ask God to forgive me, for not forgiving Tutu. I wasn’t going to say sorry as if I had been responsible for apartheid,” she adds. The documentary aired hours after the official State memorial which was held in Orlando Stadium in Soweto. Archbishop Tutu was also called out for “letting the mother of the nation down” when he had requested her to apologise at the TJRC hearings in 1997. ALSO READ: Winnie Mandela (photo tribute) It is also revealing that the apartheid regime had an elaborate plan of mudslinging Winnie and had deployed 40 journalists to write scandalous stories about her. Some of the leaders expected to attend her burial today at Fourways Memorial Park, Soweto, are Kenya’s opposition chief Raila Odinga and his wife Ida. Ghana’s former First Lady, Nana Konadu Agyeman Rawlings will lead Ghana’s government delegation. Winnie was not the only African freedom fighter who was betrayed. Other freedom fighters were also betrayed by their comrades after independence and portrayed as villains then left to wallow in poverty. Mukami Kimathi, wife of Dedan Kimathi, was also jailed for being a Mau Mau freedom fighter and was consequently disowned by her family, including her father, because they feared she would bring them problems. Despite the negative publicity, the world has hailed Winnie as a freedom icon, with some South Africans ruing that they celebrated the wrong Mandela. Even to Archbishop Tutu, she was “a defining symbol” of the fight against apartheid who “refused to be bowed by the imprisonment of her husband, the perpetual harassment of her family by security forces, detentions and banishment,”. UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres called Winnie “a leading figure at the forefront of the fight against apartheid in South Africa”.


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