The Struggle against forgetting
Our prophets should be honoured while they are still alive, writes Molebatsi Masedi
THE ANC and the government it leads haven’t done much to preserve the history of this country and the protracted struggle that brought forth freedom and democracy. This conclusion comes hauntingly to mind as the country and the world are thrown into mourning after the death of Winnie Madikizela-Mandela.
Madikizela-Mandela her many shortcomings notwithstanding, played a huge role in the liberation struggle. With Nelson Mandela and others in Robben Island she stood in as the face of the people’s quest for freedom.
For her resilience she bore the brunt of the apartheid regime’s security machinery which gave her no respite. She was raided, detained and generally harassed. When this appeared not to work as she as defiant as ever, they banished her to Brandfort in the Free State.
Madikizela-Mandela’s banishment was meant to separate her from her traditional support base in Soweto. In the logic of the security police, this displacement was meant to isolate and eventually break her. The bonus would be her turning against the struggle for her peace and security.
The apartheid regime would try it with Madiba by offering him early release from prison on condition he denounced the armed struggle and retired to his rural hinterland to farm or worst still, be co-opted into the Transkei Bantustan politics. Just as co-option wouldn’t work on Madiba, it didn’t work with Winnie either. Instead her banishment and harassment saw her grow in stature and influence, to a point that bordered on her being untouchable.
In her untouchable status the ANC and its legal networks in the country got scared by her combative utterances and words. At the instructions of the ANC exile mission, a structure was setup to rein her in and cool her down. When this didn’t work, the mass democratic movement denounced and distanced itself from her and her activities.
Today Winnie is showered with praises from everywhere, bar unrepentant racists who fear her in death as it was in life.
Winnie Madikizela-Mandela is no more. What remains are conflicting memories of her colourful life. In life as in death, she is memorable. She has been elevated to a cult status, all but a handful of racists wouldn’t hesitate to genuflect before her as they would to their deities.
She has even been granted an official funeral in recognition of her contributions to the liberation struggle. This recognition is conferred by the same party that wanted to freeze and can her. Even postapartheid she was given a bit role as a deputy minister in Mandela’s cabinet. This bit role was taken from her and she would be subjected to further depravations.
If only the love, care and attention that Madikizela-Mandela is receiving today were given when she was still alive she would have departed a happy and fulfilled person than she ended up being.
Julius Malema in his brazen way expressed disdain at the outpouring of grief and praises on Winnie Mandela. He decried more those he accused of hypocrisy because in life they ill-treated her and caused her much hurt. I guess it was this perceived hypocrisy and illtreatment of Madikizela-Mandela that led the EFF to think she could throw her weight behind them. She didn’t go over to the red berets, instead she held hope that Malema and his rag tag army would return home to the ANC and wished this to happen in her life time.
Now that she is departed, will Malema heed her call and lead the migration back to the ANC. At least the relations between him and the new ANC leadership has thawed. Recently the EFF and the ANC voted together for the motion on land appropriation without compensation and in the motion of no confidence against Anton Trollip in the Nelson Mandela Bay metro.
Before breaking down at the Nelson Mandela Foundation Memorial Service for Madikizela-Mandela earlier this, granddaughter Ndileka Mandela said that her grand-mother was given a raw deal in life.
Speaking at the same service Nelson Mandela’s widow Graca Machel threw the gauntlet at all those who paying glowing tributes to Madikizela-Mandela, she asked whether a year down the line their words would have borne tangible results. Or whether the two weeks of outpouring of tributes would amount to nothing.
The challenge to the ANC is in keeping Madikizela-Mandela’s name and legacy alive. Their new found love and recognition for her has laid a foundation to build upon a lasting memorial to her contributions to the struggle for liberation.
Madikizela-Mandela more than any other person bore most of the brunt of apartheid repression and brutality. In freedom and democracy she was given little recognition. It took her death for the nation to rise in unison to honour and celebrate her.
It can’t only be in death that we honour and celebrate our great citizens. Our prophets have to be honoured when they are still alive and it should be done here in the country of their birth.
To spare itself further embarrassment the must write into the country’s history all the narratives of our long walk to freedom. In this narrative nothing should be left out, it should be a warts and all story that will not have biases but be truthful and objective. Many post liberation societies have gone to all extends to record their histories for preservation so that generations to come get a sense of where they come from.
Now that Madikizela-Mandela has jogged our memories of where we come from before freedom and what went on then, let us bring our history in the public domain. Over and above struggling for freedom and democracy, we also fought against forgetting.
Madikizela-Mandela’s huge shadow that looms large over the country is a good starting point to plug the glaring holes in our history. Rest in Power Mama Winnie Madikizela-Mandela. You ran a great race. It is now left to the current generation to continue where you left off. That’s the most the country can do in your memory and many who passed away before.