No easy walk to honouring Mam’Winnie
THE pain and elation South Africans have felt over the past two weeks has unearthed significant truths and revitalised a revolutionary spirit.
Mam’ Winnie’s death may well prove to be a turning point in how the nation – and more particularly the ANC – sees itself 24 years after the dawn of democracy.
Unbelievably, Winnie MadikizelaMandela never saw the righting of wrongs around her reputation which has happened so rapidly over the past 12 days. Suddenly people who could have restored her role as the Mother of the Nation have come to light with information that has altered perceptions about her as much as it has confirmed how racially divided South Africa still remains.
Equally, there have been swings around that very information, with even loyal individuals suggesting we ought not to be entirely forgiving of Mam’ Winnie. She made errors of judgment, likely through her own profound trauma.
The late 1980s were horrific and Mam’ Winnie was as vital to the ending of the Struggle as she was central to some aspects of its violent denouement. So, yes, there is pain and there is elation. But today, as South Africa starts to move away from a story that has so deeply occupied us for two weeks, the ANC will have to incorporate those lessons learned into its broader consideration of how to move forward.
A lot was made clear. Some of its heroes have come away less heroic; some marginalised heroes have re-emerged. But, perhaps more importantly, we now know there must be a real revisiting of the past in order to make progress.
The people want to know what happened. They want, at last, a proper resolution out of the TRC. They want the ANC to account and stop papering over what agonises us.
Honouring Mam’ Winnie’s legacy is going to be no easy task. It was less complicated with Nelson Mandela when he died because he was still a shining figure of virtue. His name has lost some of that lustre since then as more knowledge comes to the fore around his failings and his inability to concentrate less on pleasing the minority and more on securing a future for the poor.
In the end, for all her flaws, Madikizela-Mandela was constant in trying to hold together a movement falling to pieces. Nelson Mandela was so corralled by the ANC and its determination to create an economic order suited to the demands of the West that it may be true that he assisted the very crumbling of its revolutionary soul.
The ANC has very little time left to meaningfully get back what it has lost. But there can be no doubt that Mam’ Winnie was ANC to the last, even as she embraced the EFF. That may help the ANC. That may have given it something back that it desperately needed.
Now it will take all the vigour in its power to harness what it gained through Mam’ Winnie and bring itself back to its core.