Winnie Mandela: A prolific icon of the struggle against Apartheid

By Yvonne Manjengwa

Harare – Described by many as “mother of the nation”, a prolific icon of the struggle against Apartheid, a brave, politically upright woman, Winnie Madikizela Mandela was a beacon of hope for many women in Africa.

Winnie Madikizela- Mandela died at NetCare Milpark hospital on Monday after a prolonged illness at the age of 81.

Winnie was born in September 26, 1936 in the village of Mbongweni in what is currently known as Eastern Cape.

Born Nomzamo Winifred Zanyiwe Madikizela and simply known as “Winnie’, was married to the late Nelson Mandela in 1958, separated in 1992 and divorced in 1996.

Winnie became a symbol of the misery caused by South Africa’s system of apartheid and became a force against it, in due course serving as a member of parliament.

After the arrest of Nelson Mandela in 1964 at Robben Island, Winnie started to take a leading role in the African National Congress (ANC).Over the years she was arrested, kept in solitary confinement and tortured during interrogation.

During the Soweto uprisings in 1976, Winnie was banished from the township to remote rural areas called Brandfort and placed under house arrest. At one stage her house was burnt down with suspicion falling on the South African security forces.

By so doing, this led to her being dubbed “Mother of the Nation”.

According to Desmond Tutu in a statement Winnie refused to be bowed by the imprisonment of her husband, the perpetual harassment of her family by security forces, detentions and banishment.

In December 1988, her bodyguards known as the Mandela United Football Club kidnapped four boys belonging to another anti-apartheid party. One of them, Stompie Moeketsi, was killed few days later.

In 1991, Winnie was sentenced to six years in prison for kidnapping in relation to the incident but the sentence was later reduced to a fine.

Winnie complained resentfully on a North American tour after she was forced to testify to South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission in 1997 that the commission never asked her about the treatment she suffered over 18 months in solitary confinement.

“What brutalized me so much was that I knew what it is to hate” she once said in a South African Television interview.

In 1993 she was elected as the President of the ANC Women’s League, was made deputy minister of Arts, Culture, Science and Technology in the 1994 unity government.

She served as a Member of Parliament from 1994 to 2003 and 2009 to 2018.

Madikizela –Mandela will be buried on the 14th of April in Fourways.

She is survived by two daughters Zinzi and Zenani Mandela.







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