Tribute to Winnifred Zanyiwe Nomzamo Madikizela-Mandela

Dear Mother of the Nation,
It’s common sense to say: The South has gone blind, when a giant from the south is late; but in your case, we say, the North, the West and the East have all gone blind. For you’ve impacted all corners of the compass. You encompassed it all in you and you became all of it.
In your journey of life, you’ve cried the cries of the cries of the continent. You’ve seen the scenes that many have cried to see. You’ve heard the hurt that seems to dwell in our heads. You’ve managed to calm the sea that roared in our heads. You’ve seen the sea that seemed to see to have been coming. And yet, you have refused to bow-out from the continuous struggle for geo-political and socio-economic liberation, most precisely in South Africa.
The world is saddened at the news of your untimely passing, for we feel robbed of living testimonies that historians must write about- you left us soon as we’re still drinking from your well of wisdom. The extraordinary life you led is a clear and somewhat perfect example of resilient fortitude and inextinguishable passion that is a source of inspiration to most of us, on how to courageously confront challenges with an unwavering strength, hope and determination for a better tomorrow.
Those, like me, who’ve eaten from your plate, can tell of your warm and kindness whilst the temperature was up high and above. Those in your ranks will continue narrating tales of your indelible  contribution to free and democratic South Africa that we live today, for you’ll continue serving as that bright light above us, showing us the way forward towards our national aspiration. The values system and the principle that you’ve imparted to us, will be sustained and reflected in our actions as we move forward with the businesses of the day.
Need I remind the world of your sheer intellectual brilliance, your fierce defiance and most of all, your stylish beauty!?
We won’t forget, at least in our sober minds, your struggle, your constant sacrifices you made for us, which led to your continuous detention in solitary confinement and restrictions at Brandfort, which were meant to test your stoical discipline, your heroic spirit and your unconditional commitment towards a free and democratic South Africa.
Those enlightened in history lessons would remember your moment of glory when you received the Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Award as commendation for your contribution to the struggle for freedom in our country. Among these, we feel sorry for those in shacks: the widows, the orphans, the hungry kids and the migrants- because you were their voice of reason when nobody cared to stand-up for them. Now, they’re literally parent-less as we try to get our groove back in nation building.
To some among ourselves, we’ll always uphold your legacy for your selfless and steadfast commitment to our democracy. Among the techno-savvy gen, we’ll continue chanting lullabies in your name, for we feel you deserved a year back for every year of exile. Each for imprisonment, apartheid terror target at you and your family, each for every year of post-1994 erasure from the liberation you led and won, and worst still, by the party you built.
To those with selective amnesia criticizing your legacy, may they be reminded of your times during August 1976 in Soweto when you’re surrounded by the then South African soldiers from the army armed with R4 rifles pointing at you threatening to take away your life whilst being called a ‘Kaffir Hoer’ (Black Whore) by the Afrikaaner racists. Indeed, old wounds have been re-opened by your untimely passing, and we’re unsure of the time we’ll take for healing, because your legacy was limitless in achieving a free and democratic South Africa.
Our Mother
I remember on the last day of the One Young World Summit in 2013 at the Sandton Convention Center in Johannesburg when she was introduced by her praise-singer on stage and there she was – hit by a wall of sound as 1300+ international delegates, and we, the South African young leaders roaring at the top of our voices to welcome you, chanting ‘Amandla-Awethu after you’. You had tears in your eyes – and dare I say that you truly loved that moment because you needed and deserved such kind of love, especially from your children.
Returning to office the following week, I thought your speech that evening was extremely critical: Your message sent a clear signal what transpired during the recent ANC conference Gauteng: “When leaders and governments get it wrong, young people have the right to criticize them, the right to object. Ever since then I have noticed the leaders of many governments, when challenged, resort to complaining that they are being disrespected and that this is unacceptable, i.e. criticism is itself unacceptable.” Mama Madikizela-Mandela did not only object the unacceptable actions but also believed that she, and her entire generation of leaders was failing young South Africans at that time, that what they’d done wasn’t good enough and that the younger generation would be right to hold them to account.
She felt she herself had the right to criticize the ANC government – and that any citizen had and should exercise that right. It was a message for everyone everywhere – hold leadership to account. And speaking to 1300+ international guests at the summit, dare I say, that her message also shook those who’re in slumber mode.
Like many would say, rest in power Mama Afrika, Madikizela-Mandela, with all the souls that had left the world in the struggle against apartheid and the violence that beset Our Beloved Country, we mourn your passing. May the universal powers, your God and the African Ancestors Angels Dreamers and Travelers traversing tides welcome you into the parly-gates of heaven- for you’ve truly played your part. Robala ka kgotso, Mama Madikizela-Mandela.
Koketso Marishane is the NDP Ambassador & UCT Fellow.

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