In mourning, S.Africa defends Winnie Mandela as a hero

Saul Bowman
April 5, 2018

According to the family's spokesman, Victor Dlamini, Mrs. Mandela "succumbed peacefully in the early hours of Monday afternoon surrounded by her family and loved ones".

Meanwhile‚ the African Union (AU) conveyed condolence messages, saying Madikizela-Mandela‚ a 2017 AU Commission chair lifetime achievement award winner‚ would be remembered for huge sacrifices. As a member of the African National Congress (ANC) political party, she served on the ANC's National Executive Committee and headed its Women's League.

"Although thrust into the spotlight partly as a result of her 38-year marriage to Nelson Mandela, she was always a struggle leader in her own right, who fearlessly confronted the apartheid regime", the group said. She was hounded by state security police and subjected to imprisonment, house arrests and endless banning orders.

The following year, she was convicted of kidnapping and assault over the killing of Stompie Moeketsi, a 14-year-old boy. Yet I remember the great hospitality she and Madiba extended to me when I used to visit their home in Vilakazi Street, Orlando.

Winnie Madikizela-Mandela's life can be seen as a metaphor for South Africa in its struggle to escape the oppression of apartheid to emerge as the Rainbow Nation and its subsequent decline into violence and corruption. It said it will release details of her memorial and funeral services when they are finalised.

She and her husband began a family before Mandela went underground and then was imprisoned for 27 years. She challenged patriarchy not only in words but also in deeds, and she suffered for it but seemed never to worry too much about how she was perceived by her opponents. Some called her the "voice of defiance" against white-minority rule, while Nobel laureate Desmond Tutu said she was a "defining symbol of the struggle against apartheid".

During an appearance on South Africa's eNCA network, Mashile said she wrote the tweet in response to a Reuters article that chronicled Mandela's fall from "Mother" of South Africa to the "mugger" of South Africa. She temporarily retreated from active political involvement, returning several years later. Messages would also be sent between Buthelezi, Madikizela-Mandela and one of her daughters.

Pre-eminently, as wife of Nelson Mandela she was forthright in her criticism of the truth and reconciliation process as, in her reckoning, neither could bring about "true reconciliation".

In 1986, she was widely linked to "necklacing", when suspected traitors were burnt alive by a petrol-soaked auto tyre being put over their head and set alight. The Mandela name we revere today was kept alive by her through the most hard times. "Period", said her one-time lawyer Dikgang Moseneke. "And he shed tears to say that 'we have chose to separate".

The couple divorced in 1996, two years after Mandela became president in South Africa's first all-race elections. Still, she faced vitriolic criticism when news of her love interests was leaked by spies.

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