Ze­nani slams hyp­ocrites

Daugh­ter Ze­nani’s speech high­lighted the mag­ni­tude of her mother’s strength

The Sunday Independent - - Front Page - 491 Days,

LADIES and gen­tle­man, fam­ily, friends and all those who’ve trav­elled from near and afar to be at my mother’s funeral, good morn­ing. Your pres­ence means ev­ery­thing to me and my fam­ily. Ever since we an­nounced that my mother had de­parted this world, we’ve been com­forted and strength­ened in our hour of grief and weak­ness by your love, your mes­sages, your vis­i­ta­tions, and above all your tes­ti­monies of what my mother meant to each of you.

From the af­ter­noon of April 2, when we had to share, even as our hearts were heavy, that we had lost the woman the world knew as Win­nie Madik­izela-Man­dela, but who I sim­ply called mum, we have been shielded from our own pain by your love for her.

To those of you who took time to come to Mama’s house to pay your re­spects, to bring us your con­do­lences, thank you. We have been touched by your hu­man­ity. May you do for others what you have done for us.

I stand here this morn­ing to both mourn my mother and also, like you, to cel­e­brate her life. Be­cause hers is one of the most unique sto­ries in re­cent his­tory. She dared to take on one of the most pow­er­ful and evil regimes of the past cen­tury, and she tri­umphed.

For those who have not had the time or the courage to go be­yond the quick head­lines or the rushed pro­files, I urge you to search the archives so that you may fully ap­pre­ci­ate who my mother re­ally was, and why her life and story mat­ters so much.

One of the most im­por­tant mea­sures of how some­one’s life has been lived is the ex­tent to which they have touched others. By this mea­sure, my mother’s life was a re­mark­able one. For those of us who’ve been close to her, we have al­ways ap­pre­ci­ated just how much she meant to the world. But even we were un­pre­pared for the scale of the out­pour­ing of love and per­sonal tes­ti­monies from so many.

From the ris­ing gen­er­a­tion, which is too young to have been around when my mother took on the apartheid state, to those who hail from the African di­as­pora, we have been re­minded of how she touched so many, in ways that are so deeply per­sonal.

As a fam­ily we have watched in awe as young women stood up and took a stand of deep sol­i­dar­ity with my mother. I know she would be very proud of each of you, and grate­ful for your acts of per­sonal courage: for join­ing hands in the #IAmWin­nie move­ment, wear­ing your doeks and bravely mount­ing a nar­ra­tive that coun­ters the one that had be­come, to our pro­found dis­may, my mother’s pub­lic story over the last 25 years of her life.

Like her, you showed that we can be beau­ti­ful, pow­er­ful and rev­o­lu­tion­ary – even as we chal­lenge the lies that have been ped­dled for so long. As the world, and par­tic­u­larly the me­dia, which is so di­rectly com­plicit in the smear cam­paign against my mother, took no­tice of your acts of re­sis­tance, so too did this nar­ra­tive be­gin to change.

The world saw that a young gen­er­a­tion, unafraid of the power of the es­tab­lish­ment, was ready to chal­lenge its lies, lies that had be­come part of my mother’s life. And this was also when we saw so many who had sat on the truth come out one by one to say that they had known all along that these things that had been said about my mother were not true.

And as each of them dis­avowed these lies, I had to ask my­self: ‘Why had they sat on the truth and waited un­til my mother’s death to tell it?’ It is so dis­ap­point­ing to see how they with­held their words dur­ing my mother’s life­time, know­ing very well what they would have meant to her. Only they know why they chose to share the truth with the world af­ter she de­parted.

I think their ac­tions are ac­tions of ex­treme cru­elty, be­cause they robbed my mother of her right­ful legacy dur­ing her life­time. It is lit­tle com­fort to us that they have come out now.

I was par­tic­u­larly an­gered by the for­mer po­lice com­mis­sioner Ge­orge Fi­vaz for cru­elly only com­ing out with the truth af­ter my mother’s death. And to those who’ve vil­i­fied my mother through books, on so­cial me­dia and speeches, don’t for a minute think we’ve for­got­ten. The pain you in­flicted on her lives on in us. Praising her now that she’s gone shows what hyp­ocrites you are. Why didn’t you do the same to any of her male coun­ter­parts and re­mind the world of the many crimes they com­mit­ted be­fore they were called saints.

Over the past week and a half, it has be­come clear that South Africa, and in­deed the world, holds men and women to dif­fer­ent stan­dards of moral­ity. Much of what my mother has been con­stantly asked to ac­count for is sim­ply ig­nored when it comes to her male coun­ter­parts. And this kind of dou­ble stan­dard acts also to ob­scure the im­mense con­tri­bu­tion of women to the fight for the eman­ci­pa­tion of our coun­try from the evil of apartheid.

I say ‘fight’ be­cause the bat­tle for our free­dom was not some po­lite pic­nic at which you ar­rived armed with your best be­hav­iour. The apartheid state de­vel­oped a so­phis­ti­cated and bru­tal in­fra­struc­ture for our op­pres­sion. It was in­tol­er­ant of any talk of democ­racy, es­pe­cially from a woman ac­tivist.

I hope that the re­dis­cov­ery of the truth about my mother helps South Africans come to terms with the piv­otal role that she, Win­nie Nomzamo Madik­izela-Man­dela, played in free­ing us from the shack­les of the sys­tem of ter­ror­ism and white supremacy known as apartheid.

At my mother’s 80th birth­day in Septem­ber 2016, I said: ‘One day the story of how you fought back so valiantly against that ter­ri­ble and pow­er­ful regime will be told. With­out the dis­tor­tions.’ It is not two years since I ut­tered those words and al­ready they’re com­ing true.

Those who no­tice such things would have re­alised that her 2013 book, which tells the story of the bru­tal­ity she ex­pe­ri­enced at the hands of the apartheid state, the depths of her de­spair and her ex­tra­or­di­nary re­silience and de­fi­ance un­der ex­treme pres­sure, was al­ready an in­vi­ta­tion for a deep re-eval­u­a­tion of her life. Be­cause any­one who reads that book grasps just how much my mother ded­i­cated her life to the strug­gle for a free South Africa.

She made the choice that she would raise two fam­i­lies: her per­sonal fam­ily and the larger fam­ily that was her beloved coun­try. And to her there was no con­tra­dic­tion in this choice, be­cause she cher­ished free­dom as much as she trea­sured her fam­ily. She was not pre­pared to choose between the two. She be­lieved it was her call­ing to de­fend and pro­tect both from the con­stant as­saults by the apartheid state.

Five years ago we lost my fa­ther and the world de­scended on South Africa to show its love for him. I truly be­lieve that it is worth re­peat­ing that long be­fore it was fash­ion­able to call for Nel­son Man­dela’s re­lease from Robben Is­land, it was my mother who kept his mem­ory alive. She kept his name on the lips of the peo­ple. Her very ap­pear­ance – re­gal, con­fi­dent, and stylish – an­gered the apartheid au­thor­i­ties and gal­vanised the peo­ple. She kept my fa­ther’s mem­ory in the peo­ple’s hearts.

For those who have won­dered, let me as­sure you that even at the height of her ac­tivism, my mother al­ways found a way to let me and my sis­ter know we were the most spe­cial peo­ple in her life. When we could not be with her, she wrote let­ters to us. When we were with her, she did not even have to say any­thing: her love for us was writ­ten on her face.

But be­cause she had such a big heart, my mother could also love the com­mu­nity where she lived, no mat­ter where that was. So that when she was ban­ished to Brand­fort, she im­mersed her­self in the af­fairs of this lit­tle com­mu­nity and im­proved the lives of the peo­ple, who, in turn, re­ceived her with so much love.

In clos­ing, let me say that when you read pop­u­lar his­tory about the lib­er­a­tion strug­gle as it cur­rently stands, you can be for­given for think­ing that it was a man’s strug­gle, and a man’s tri­umph. Noth­ing could be fur­ther from the truth. My mother is one of the many women who rose against pa­tri­archy, prej­u­dice and the might of a nu­clear-armed state to bring about the peace and democ­racy we en­joy to­day.

Ev­ery gen­er­a­tion is gifted one or two peo­ple who shine as brightly as the bright­est stars. My sis­ter and I are dou­bly lucky in that we got to call Win­nie Nomzamo Madik­izela-Man­dela our mother and Nel­son Rolih­lahla Man­dela our fa­ther.

Un­like many of those who imag­ine a con­tested legacy between my fa­ther and my mother, we do not have the lux­ury of such a choice. The two of them were our par­ents. And all we ask is: no mat­ter how tempt­ing it may be to com­pare and con­trast them, just know that some­times it is enough to con­tem­plate two his­tor­i­cal fig­ures and ac­cept that they com­ple­mented each other far more than any pop­u­lar nar­ra­tive might sug­gest.

I’m deeply grate­ful to have known and cher­ished this woman that I called my mother. It is dif­fi­cult to ac­cept that she is no longer with us be­cause she was al­ways so strong.

I’m com­forted by your pres­ence and your pal­pa­ble love for this woman we came to know as Win­nie Nomzamo Madik­izela-Man­dela.

As she said in her life­time: ‘I am the prod­uct of the masses of my coun­try and the prod­uct of my enemy.’

May we learn from her and be in­spired by her courage.


IN HON­OUR OF A HEROINE: From far left, Namibia’s Pres­i­dent Hage Gein­gob, Repub­lic of Congo’s De­nis Sas­sou Nguesso, Pres­i­dent Cyril Ramaphosa and Win­nie Madik­ize­la­Man­dela’s daugh­ters Ze­nani Man­dela-Dlamini and Zindzi Man­dela were among thou­sands of...


PAY­ING HOMAGE: Sis­ters Zindzi, left, and Ze­nani, pay trib­ute to their mother Win­nie Madik­izela-Man­dela at her funeral yes­ter­day.

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