Mama Winnie, more than any other hero, reflects SA
AFEW years back I met a young couple for drinks. They were one of those super couple types. Wife, a published author, accomplished actress (both stage and television), and the husband an actor (stage, television and movies). I marvelled at them and, to be honest, secretly envied their lifestyle and career choices.
They were wonderful drinks companions. They were in love, but did not swoon over each other, making me feel like a third wheel. More importantly, they truly supported each other, emotionally, professionally … like best friends. I shuddered to think if my ex-partner and I had met them for drinks. It would have been so easy to pick up how much she despised me, and found the sound of my voice worse than the sound of fingernails being scratched on a school chalkboard.
She had a special path or shortcut to my place of hurt, and was not scared to use it, anytime. She had the power to hurt me, and she knew it. I wondered, if everyone could see how much I yearned for her approval. Not her love, but that she still held me in some type of esteem, or rather she was not disgusted by my mere existence!
Maybe I wanted her forgiveness, that’s probably it. Even for the things that I had no control over. Although, in my estimation, she was not there for me, but somehow I hoped that through her understanding of her power over me, and my acceptance of that power, she would have regarded that as good enough to forgive and understand me, including my mistakes and wrongs.
I’m reminded of the Michael Jackson song and he cries out, “In our darkest hour, in my deepest despair, will you still care? Will you be there? In my trials and tribulations, through our doubts and frustrations. In my violence, in my turbulence, through my fears and my confessions. In my anguish and my pain, through my joy and my sorrow, in the promise of another tomorrow.”
All of these emotions and thoughts are scuttling around my full empty mind, with the passing of Mama Winnie Madikizela-Mandela. There has been so much of white noise. Before, you think that this is directed at white people, just note that white noise means “noise containing many frequencies with equal intensities”.
In all of my encounters with Madikizela-Mandela, one has never understood her to be some conflicted individual. She did not hide herself from either critic or soothsayer. Her opinion was not lost among the intensity of others. She was not loud and not crass. She was assertive, she did not tolerate any weaklings, and feared no one, not even Nelson Mandela or Archbishop Desmond Tutu.
But for some reason or the other, the intensity of the opinions on Madikizela-Mandela has been white noise. It drowns out so many things about her. It does not give me a chance to grieve. It does not give me a chance to mourn. It does not give me a chance to celebrate Mama Winnie. And that’s when I started to think about the relationship between Nelson and Winnie. Not the relationship prior to his imprisonment, but the relationship upon his release.
Even before his release, Madiba was a hero. The country feared him, the liberation movement venerated him, and the people were in awe of him. And in my opinion, they expected Winnie to not just stand by him but, as ugly as this sounds, they expected Winnie to go through the halls of hell in support of him. Such that her banishment to Brandfort, her 491 days of solitary confinement, the physical torture and inhumane treatment, were taken as expected.
I must admit, I was one of those heartless chauvinist activists who expected her to be tortured because of her love for Madiba. If she had given in to them, I would not have forgiven her. Madiba, deserved no less.
But I believe that upon Madiba’s release and the resumption of their marriage, it was Mama Winnie with the power, not him. He may have been a colossus on the world stage. He may have had a gaze that forced the apartheid president to blink. But when it came to him and Winnie, she was the one with power.
She stood by him when it would have been easier to play the role of the weak wife in support of the struggle. She exuded his power when he was breaking rocks on Robben Island.
Like my ex-partner, there was nothing wrong with Mama Winnie, she did nothing wrong. In her weakest moments, she had more power than most people in South Africa, she was just tired of carrying a strong, powerful man. And for all his power, he had no idea how to sacrifice his ego to ensure that he reciprocated the sacrifices she made for him.
Mama Winnie, more than any other liberation hero, reflects South Africa, and how we need a shoulder just to cry on, so that our dignity can be restored, without us begging to be treated like equal human beings.
ONE WITH POWER,
HIS ROBE opened. He smelled like cigar and espresso and his body odour. Here was America’s Dad on top of me, a happily married man with five children, on top of me. – Former model Janice Dickinson telling a jury on Thursday that she could still remember Bill Cosby’s smell from an encounter with him in a Lake Tahoe hotel room in 1982. She had gone there to meet him, she said, but was feeling woozy from a pill he gave her for menstrual cramps.