I’ve no apologies for my blog looking like an obituary section of a newspaper in recent times. The demise of the people I’ve recently blogged about couldn’t be ignored, not just because they were widely known but because I grew up knowing them, and I kinda was influenced by them one way or the other. I wasn’t shocked by Winnie Madikizela Mandela‘s death. She died aged eighty one, from complications associated with diabetes which may not necessarily be unusual for someone her age. She was the kind of person you can say truly lived an interesting life, in interesting times. You may argue that we all do, but she hardly was a spectator in her times, like the majority of us are and will end up being till the end of our lives.
It’s difficult to tell her story entirely though, without that of her ex-husband, Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela. Sadly, it’s easy to label someone beside a supposed Saint, as not being saintly as the other, If not outrightly demonized. That in my opinion, was at the core of the tragedy in terms of how Winnie Mandela was viewed by a considerable number of people worldwide. It didn’t matter that she stood by her husband throughout all his ordeal at the hands of the white minority Apartheid South African Government at the time, despite going through her personal and domestic travails at the same time, with several stints in jail, sometimes in solitary confinement. The society that didn’t deem it fit to crucify her husband for cheating with his former wife with her, rushed to swallow, hook, line, and sinker, propaganda orchestrated by the apartheid regime against her of infidelities and indiscretions, which they were sure will get to her husbands’ ears, in a bid to discredit her, not only before her husband, for whom she sacrificed everything, but also to the oppressed black South Africans whose cause she relentlessly championed.
Now, this isn’t saying that she didn’t do any of what she was accused of. I just feel that dwelling on those things reduced the great work she devoted herself to, in alleviating the conditions of her people, despite having so little for herself and her family. It’s painful to see write-ups about her, even those with the best intentions, celebrating her life, and in the same vein recounting her failings, forgetting that she was human, like many of us are, with our shortcomings and indiscretions that society will deal us with the same measure, or worse, should they come to know about ours as well. You’d think her divorce from her husband, and her removal as one of the beneficiaries of his last will and testament will deter her, but it was the opposite that we witnessed, as she was among the very few of the freedom fighters of her time at the African National Congress, ANC who remained true to the calling of the times and people, till she drew her last breath.
She indeed remained true to the ideals of the organization, while others, including her former husband in trying to move the party from the Freedom Fighting Gear, to a governing one with the intention of turning the fortunes of the Bantu people for the better, ended up missing the , such that after close to three decades in power, the majority of black South Africans have had very little to show for it economically, and I dare say politically (when you consider that even the recently ousted Jacob Zuma acted mostly in the interest of the Gupta Family who wielded the real power). Winnie Mandela stood up to be counted on the side of the people, even under an African majority government in power, long before the charade the ANC portrayed in power became obvious. She saw and spoke of the betrayal while her former husband was in power, but many saw her criticisms as coming from an embittered woman, dogged by that, yet another sexual scandal with an aide, and murder investigation of that time. Sadly, in not paying attention to her warnings in those early days, black South Africans missed an opportunity to halt the descent into the shame that characterized Thabo Mbeki administration, and worsened when the kleptomaniac, Jacob Zuma deposed/succeeded him, and the same ungrateful black people whom Winnie endured pains and suffering for, then turned on their fellow black Africans from other parts of the continent to vent their anger, in xenophobic attacks and lynchings that became synonymous with the Zuma era.
I’m glad that she was largely vindicated before she died, many learnt to separate her personal struggles from her fight against injustice. She, by vocalizing her displeasure at the way the ANC ruled in the post apartheid era, even when it was very unpopular and politically incorrect to so do, was eventually spared the ignominy that continues to dog her peers. Of her service and devotion to the betterment of society and humanity, that has never been in doubt, such that her most ardent critics won’t deny. She ended up being a mother, not just to her children, but of the nation, in ways none before her, nor after her could ever be, not even in the foreseeable future, and probably never. To have survived and lived this long, in spite of all that life threw on and at her, speaks to her resilience, strong will and strength of character, at a time when the only way to have survived the onslaught by that evil government, was probably, what seemed like “protective custody” (with it’s arduous challenges) in jail like her husband and other political prisoners on Robben Island, as those outside like Steve Biko were routinely sacrificed on the streets, as the blood needed to be shed for the attainment of the aims of the struggle required constant replenishment. Winnie Mandela never betrayed her people, she stayed true to the cause, and for that, will be immortalized in the heart of South Africans, and her followers the world over.
Published by m'khail madukovich