13 August 2010


 I remember Winnie Madikizela-Mandela.  It seems as if many have chosen to forget her and the contributions and hardships she endured during the heyday of apartheid in South Africa.

The catalyst for this remembrance was an article (8/8/2010) in The Mail & Guardian Online News Service located  in Johannesburg  which is one of South Africa and all of Africa's news source. The focus was on an interview that she had given to  the City News in which she lamented the ineffectiveness of the ANC in implementing policies that would empower South African women.  Ms. Madikizela-Mandela was diplomatic in her approach, citing "I wouldn't say the ANC has failed women--its the responsibility of every South African to transform society" .  There was clearly some concern about the slow pace of providing much needed health services and "protection" for these women and her disappointment that the ANC (African National Congress) hadn't worked more aggressively for change.

 The most intriguing aspect of this woman's life is the controversy that continues to follow her and the ongoing saga of what she represents by her supporters and detractors.  In March, 2010 there was another article written about her lambasting Nelson Mandela and the ANC for failing the masses with the alliances they made with the power structure ..."a bad deal" was the phrase they attributed to her.  This reportedly, was an interview she had with Nadira Naipaul and was published in the London Evening Standard.  Bishop Tutu was described as a "cretin" and she expressed an inability to forgive Nelson Mandela for accepting the Nobel Peace Prize with apartheid's former President FW deklerk.  Ms. Madikizela-Mandela denies having the interview and states that it was all fabricated.  Again, she's vilified and locked into the image of bitterness and an inability to reconcile and forgive all the injustices of the past.  She continues to be the "town crier" for ongoing injustices and hardships that are present in South Africa today with many who believe in her fighting spirit and those who view her as passé and a troublemaker.

  I've followed Ms. Mandela for many years and understand that behind the headlines and controversy therein lies an extraordinary and fearless woman.  She continued to feed the hungry and dispossessed, provided shelter, counseled and tended to the health needs of many poverty-stricken South Africans.  This was done during the most oppressive and devastating assaults by the apartheid regime.  The accusations about her that aired during The Truth and Reconciliation Commission hearings  were disturbing, yet the brutality of the times, victimized all who were fighting for justice and independence.  The dynamics of revolution posed situations and circumstances that few can really ever reconcile, however, she made it through despite the betrayal at times of her countrymen.  Her conviction on fraud charges and suspended prison sentence are quite complicated, however, shouldn't overshadow all the amazing and freedom granting activities she engaged in for many years. The rift with the ANC and resignation from the women's league and the organization had to be devastating, yet at age 73--she continues to express hope about the future of South Africa and the empowerment of women in that society.  Her resilience again surfaced when she was nominated and on the ANC list to run for the General Assembly in 2009, however, the fraud charges rendered her ineligible.  There are  those who believe in her and haven't given up on what she means to the downtrodden in their society which presented an embarrassing situation for ANC officials and reminded them of the scope of her legacy.

Dr. Maya Angelou described her in 2007 at St. Sabina's Church in Chicago, as a freedom fighter --"she's a woman and a strong woman and an intelligent and loving woman".  Her supporters today still view her as such and understand that fighting for freedom in oppressive societies bring out the best but also at times the worst in the human condition.  There have been biographies on Winnie-Madikizela, however, the one written by Anné Marié Du Preez Bezdrob is the most balanced.  She compares her to the heroic women of other oppressive societies, e.g., Sarajevans against the Serbs, Akhmatova (poet) under the Stalin Regime.  I also think of Fannie Lou Hamer under the segregated south, Angela Davis fighting for change within the Criminal Justice System, Ida B. Wells' anti-lynching campaign and the list could go on and on. There is one quote attributed to Winnie Madikizela-Mandela in her book which reads:

"I am the product of the masses of my country and the product of my enemy"

I shall never forget her. 
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...