How can we ever describe the loss of Nomzamo Madikizela Mandela Winnie Mandela to this world? It is not easy. I can think of no other person born in our life time whose living – whose sacrifice, whose values and beliefs – has touched more people across the globe than Winnie Madikizela Mandela. she made an indelible mark in African politics and public life.
I saw firsthand as a student how her prolonged and unjust imprisonment moved hundreds of thousands of us, young people primarily, to stand against the forces that dominated and speak truth to power. Apartheid was a scurrilous and hideous crime against humanity. The transition from apartheid to democracy was assisted by so many countless people including Winnie helped to lay the foundation to end of apartheid.
The struggle of the South African people led by her husband and the ANC leadership awakened in a generation worldwide from the late 1970s to 1990s an abhorrence of injustice and a passion to fight it in all its forms. Let us understand that these horrors continued decades after the settlement of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which provided for the equality of treatment for all human beings.
Nomzamo Madikizela Mandela Winnie Mandela’s life brings to mind that group of people who develop the Eneke Syndrome. Eneke is that restless bird Chinua Achebe tells us about in Things Fall Apart– the one that had learnt to fly without perching because men had learnt to shoot without missing. Those trying to shoot it grow ever so irritated because they keep missing their target, and they keep trying to justify why they need to shoot it down.
For Winnie, they said it’s because she had become ruthless in her struggle for freedom. Truth is, she had dared to become army; self-licensed to be armed and dangerous against another rogue and ruthless force that considered itself licensed to kill, to torture, to rule and to separate. She had taken up where Umkhonto we Sizwe had left off. She flew without perching, and in the process her fiery wings singed some and the arrows in her quiver hit some wrong targets. It’s hard to get the right targets hundred percent of the time while in flight. She has finally perched, and the world is pausing to remember her valor.
I’m reminded of the many warriors now learning to fly without perching where men with ruthless power are shooting without missing. Yes, they will make mistakes, but must keep flying.
Nomzamo Madikizela Winnie Mandela, like other popular Saints understood the redemptive power of love over hate and the wondrous virtue of liberating both then oppressed and the oppressor. Many people will remember Winnie for her witticisms, jokes, wisecracks, and epigrammatic sayings. But she was much, much bigger than dwarfs in politics. She made an indelible mark in South African politics and public life.
Winnie is my heroine. She was an authentic conviction politician, who made principles and values the guiding light in her political career. May her convictions, legacy and principles live on.