Flawed diamond still shines brightly
THE news of Winnie Madikizela-Mandela’s passing this week brought the country to a standstill, with every media house sharing the good and the bad of the fearless fighter she was.
Few people would have prophesied that the woman from rural Bizana in the Eastern Cape who met 40-year-old lawyer, Madiba, when she was only 23 years of age was going to attract worldwide media attention for the rest of her life.. and beyond.Unlike other prominent political leaders, who prefer relocating to the suburbs, Winnie remained with the masses and had been a resident of Orlando West in Soweto for the better part of her life.
She was in touch with the people on the ground and was always at hand to assist them.
Despite being married to the world’s icon, Nelson Mandela, the ‘Mother of the Nation’ distinguished herself as a political activist in her own right, and was her own person - never afraid to speak her mind.
Her 38-year marriage to Madiba, who spent 27 years in prison, was the biggest test of her life, placing enormous emotional and practical burdens on her and exposing her human frailties.
She was not without her shortcomings. Her relationship with her former lawyer Dali Mpofu and her involvement in the death of ANC Youth League activist Stompie Seipei placed her in the headlines for all the wrong reasons.
But her positive influence on many was legendary and she is being touted as the mother to many political youth leaders, such as Julius Malema.
When Malema launched the EFF, he described Mama Winnie as the lifetime Commander in Chief of the EFF.
Little did we know that her 81st birthday bash held last year would be her last show.
Special about that party was the guest list which included political friends and foes of the likes of Malema, Cyril Ramaphosa, Advocate Dali Mpofu and Malusi Gigaba, to name but a few.
The birthday celebration was a gesture of unity, and it was there that Mama Winnie committed herself to accompanying Ramaphosa to Marikana to meet with the widows of the killed miners. She was undoubtedly a peace broker. Even when there was tension during the ANC leadership race, she would from time to time seek for a solution that would please both factions.
In the run up to the Polokwane Conference, she attempted to bring together Mbeki and Zuma, who were involved in a bitter battle for the ANC’s 2007 presidency.
She was once again at the forefront of bringing unity between the Zuma and Ramaphosa factions at the Nasrec Conference.
She had made many friends and enemies in the revolution, and one of her friends happened to be the IFP leader, Inkosi Mangosuthu Buthelezi, who was a frequent visitor to her home in Soweto.
Buthelezi described Winnie as not only a beautiful woman, but also a great cook.
Winnie was a fighter in the true sense of the word.
Even after Madiba’s passing she launched a bid to have Madiba’s Qunu house as hers. She fought that battle until the end.
Even when it was clear that her health challenges were taking a toll on her, she refused to sit on a wheelchair, preferring to use a walking stick.
That was the character of Mama Winnie Mandela, the country’s most influential anti-apartheid activist including Madiba.
Rest In Peace, Mama Wesizwe. Ulufezile ugqatso lwakho.