Retrospective Tribute: Afrikan Great–Mama Winnie Madikizela-Mandela

By Nduku Musyimi-Mulumba

Photos: Wikimedia Commons\YouTube Screenshots

Nomzamo Winnie Zanyiwe Madikizela-Mandela; the mother of attempts, efforts, and struggle, joined this physical existence on Saturday, September 26th, 1936, and transitioned to the ancestor realm on Monday, April 2nd, 2018. She is and always will be celebrated by Afrikans all over the globe, and those who stand in solidarity with Afrikan Liberation, as Our Mother, an Afrikan Woman who gave self for the well-being of the collective of Afrikans with resilience, commitment, and an undying love.

Mama Winnie was born to Columbus Kokani Madikizela and Nomathamsanqa Getrude Mzaidume. She was the fifth of nine children. Winnie’s mother transitioned from this physical existence when Winnie was nine years old, and she was raised by her father. Winnie speaks fondly of her upbringing by her father. She says that her father brought her up like a boy and she was grateful for it because it prepared her for the tough life which lay ahead of her. She says that her father and maternal grandmother were a big part of her political awareness, teaching her Black Consciousness and pride, and the history of South Afrika including the invasion of South Afrika by the Boers.

Mama Winnie married her spirit of balance in life, Baba Nelson Mandela (Madiba) in 1958, and they were blessed with two daughters, Zenani and Zindiziswa. Madiba and Mama Winnie shared a spiritual unity that many of us will never grasp. Their love for each other, and commitment to each other’s well-being was uncommon and something to be revered. At one point Madiba writes to Mama Winnie from prison and ends his letter by saying, “…keep well and be strong darling. I think of you all the time. Tons and tons of love and a million kisses. Devotedly.” This love is evident again at Madiba’s death bed when Mama Winnie is advised to come closer to him by his doctors, and Madiba smiles and takes 3 last breaths before transitioning from this physical existence.

This love did not blind her of the tactics that the oppressive system used to divide and conquer them. Of this Mama Winnie says in ‘491 Days,’

“When I was in detention for all those months, my two children nearly died. When I came out they were so lean; they had had such a hard time. They were covered in sores, malnutrition sores. And they wonder why I am like I am. And they have a nerve to say, ‘Oh Madiba is such a peaceful person, you know. We wonder how he had such a wife who is so violent?’ The leadership on Robben Island was never touched; the leadership on Robben Island had no idea what it was like to engage the enemy physically. The leadership was removed and cushioned behind prison walls; they had their three meals a day. In fact, ironically, we must thank the authorities for keeping our leadership alive; they were not tortured. They did not know what we were talking about and when we were reported to be so violent, engaged in the physical struggle, fighting the Boers underground, they did not understand because none of them had ever been subjected to that, not even Madiba himself – they never touched him, they would not have dared.”

Mama Winnie had another love…Afrikan People. She knew and understood the struggles of the masses of Afrika, and she dedicated her life to making sure that they realized freedom. In addition to the education taught to her by her father and maternal grandmother, Mama Winnie was a social worker working as the first black medical social worker at Baragwanath Hospital, where she was exposed to the extreme conditions of poverty which most of the patients were marginalized into. This exposure and her deep love for Afrikan Peoples led her into a life of struggling for the liberation of Afrikan People in South Afrikan and the equitable distribution of resources.

The anti-apartheid movement is credited to Nelson Mandela because the narrative has been put out by the hunter. It is time we the lions put out our narrative and correct this incomplete and misleading narrative. This is not to take away Madiba’s role in the anti-apartheid movement, but it is to give honor to an Afrikan great who has been unjustly criminalized when all she did is love her people and do all she could within her power to ensure their well-being. Madiba spent most of the years of this movement behind bars. Mama Winnie on the other hand was on the ground throughout this period with the masses who were under constant attack from the apartheid movement. Mama Winnie Madikizela-Mandela was one of the leading advocates and warriors of the anti-apartheid movement, staying strong and committed to her last days on this earth. She was so committed she chose to remain in Soweto even when she could afford to move to the suburbs. In her own words she said that she was going to die in Soweto despite working so hard to ensure that her children could live anywhere they wanted to in South Afrika.

We Afrikans speak for our greats. We Afrikans speak with one voice accompanied by songs from our ancestors in celebrating Mama Winnie Zanyiwe Madikizela-Mandela, one of Afrika’s greats. We thank her for a life’s commitment to the well-being of Afrikan Peoples. We commit to taking on the mantle and ensuring that her struggle is not in vain…keeping in mind her words of caution in her epilogue in ‘491 Days,”

“I felt strongly that this journal and these letters needed to be published in this way, exactly as they were written at the time, so that my children and my grandchildren and whoever else reads them should please see to it that the country never ever denigrates to levels such as those. It is for their future. Right now, people like myself who come from that era become petrified when we see us sliding and becoming more like our oppressive masters. To me, that is exactly what is happening and that is what scares me. Throughout the years of oppression, I think my feelings got blunted because you were so tortured that the pain reached a threshold where you could not feel pain anymore. If you keep pounding and pounding on the same spot the feeling dies, the nerves die. I can feel us sliding back to that right now.”

It is our duty as Afrikans, in homage to an Afrikan great, to ensure that this fear is never realized.

Asante Mama Winnie!!!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *