Wednesday 14 April 2021
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Mama Nomzamo Winnie Madikizela-Mandela

-A life fully lived


The Swapo Women’s Council (SPWC) in cooperation with the South African High Commission held a memorial service for the late Winnie Madikizela-Mandela in Windhoek this week. The memorial was attended by high ranking female public office bearers such as the Prime Minister Sara Kuugongelwa-Amadhila, The Deputy Prime Minister Netumbo Nandi Ndaitwah, Deputy Minister of Higher Education Dr. Becky Njoze-Ojo, Deputy Minister of Sports, Youth and Culture Agnes Tjongarero but to mention a few. Also in attendance was the Speaker of Parliament Peter Katjavivi accompanied by his spouse Jane Katjavivi. William Whitehead was also in attendance representing the South African government.
The Secretary of the SPWC, Eunice Iipinge charged all the women to “touch their necklaces” symbolic of Mama Winnie’s infamous mantra that apartheid will be overcome with the “necklace and matches” in South Africa.
“Touch your necklaces because we continue to fight with the necklace for gender equality and against gender based-violence. These are our weapons” said Iipinge. She further extended her condolences to the South African Nation, the Southern Africa Community and Africa at large by stating that “we are mourning with our sisters and brothers, Cde Mandela who dedicated her life to work tirelessly, to better the lives of people in South Africa, the African continent and the world. She was a woman who stood fearlessly against the apartheid regime, fighting for equal rights and justice for her people”.
Iipinge used the occasion to draw similarities between the SPWC and the African Congress Women’s league, when it comes to the role of women in the struggle for liberation from apartheid. “These two bodies of women in Southern Africa, fought alongside their male counter parts to liberate their countries during the dark era known as apartheid. Their uncompromised commitment to Women’s rights inspired many women in their countries. Mama Mandela especially, was a thorn in the side of apartheid. She never wavered even in the most difficult times but instead stood fast to her cause. We must mourn and protect her legacy” she reflected.
The book Winnie Mandela ‘a life’ (p.36), documents that as early as high school, Winnie believed just like Chancellor Otto von Bismarck on German unification, that her people would win their freedom only by means of blood and iron. It was this worldview that perhaps informed her anti-apartheid radical statement uttered in Munsieville on the West Rand in 1986, when she said, “With our matchboxes and our necklaces, we will liberate our country”. This statement will later be used to incriminate her as endorsement for the ruthless practice of killing people by setting alight tires around their necks during apartheid by black anti-apartheid radicals.
Professor Jospeh Diescho who spoke as a close friend of the late Mama Mandela during the memorial, observed that Winnies death marks the second time in the entire human life that the world pauses to celebrate the life of a black woman. The first time was in 2005 that the world memorialised Rosa Parks, a woman who in 1955 sat down on the bus to stand up for her rights and with that defiant act, Parks helped initiate the civil rights movement in the United States of America. According to Diescho Parks maintained that she is ‘a child of God’ in refusal to a white man’s demand that she vacates her seat on the premise of her skin colour.
“And now we celebrate Mama Winnie who equally taught us to stand up for our rights and be true to ourselves. She emulates to us that life is not about being rich but about serving others. She stood in the way of harms way for all people and marched towards the guns, fully prepared to die for what she believed in” praised Diescho.
Diescho also used the platform to talk about the role of liberators who did not necessarily go to exile or prison. A narrative often omitted in liberation struggle memory politics. “People like Mama Winnie did not go to prison, they went to correctional facilities. There is a difference between prison and a correctional facility.
The likes of the late Mandela and Ya Toivo went to prison, for many years and while that was deplorable, it remains a far cry from the torture experienced in correctional facilities by the likes Mama Winnie and many others” he said.
“So, we are here not to mourn but to memorialise a mother. In many ways we can say that she epitomized the writing of Maya Angelou who said that “people will forget what you said, people will also forget what you did but they will never forget how you made them feel”.
Winnie Madikizela-Mandela was never first lady of South Africa but was affectionately referred to as the mother of the nation and according to South African popular artist, Yvonne Chaka Chaka,  “ The world would not know Nelson Mandela without Winnie because she kept the Mandela name alive during the 27 years of his imprisonment”.

Timeline of a life fully lived

  • Born in 1936
  • First Job in 1955 as South Africa’s first black social worker
  • Marries Nelson Mandela in 1958
  • Former Husband Mandela is jailed in 1962, sparking her dedication to fight for his release and end apartheid indefinitely.
  • 1986 she delivers her controversial speech calling South Africans to counter apartheid with violence and endorses ‘necklacing ‘or setting alight a tire around someone’s neck.
  • 1990, Nelson Mandela s released after 27 years in prison.
  • In 1992, she losses all her executive positions in the ANC following corruption and mismanagement allegations.
  • In 1994, she is appointed as Deputy Minister of Arts, Culture, Science and Technology.
  • Gets fired in 1995 due to insubordination but remains a member of parliament as well as the head of the ANC Women’s League.
  • 1996 saw the finalisation of her divorce with Nelson Mandela
  • 1998 she was implicated of torture, murder and abduction during the liberation struggle by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of South Africa.
  • 2003 to 2004 she was convicted of fraud, with a suspended jail sentence.
  • Dies 2nd April 2018 aged 81. -AFP

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