For weeks, since the transition of Dr. Nelson R. Mandela, I have wanted to craft some words about Winnie Madilizela-Mandela (b. Nomzamo Winifred Madikizela), the second wife of Nelson.
Although her role has been downplayed in the present corporate press, this is an abuse of history, for, were it not for her long and stalwart struggle to keep Nelson’s name out there – against the vicious repression of the apartheid state, which banned and banished her, we would not know his name, and the anti-apartheid movement would not have grown as it did.
A stunning Black beauty, a courageous figure of both her husband and the African National Congress (ANC), she endured, for years – for decades – and fought hardest of all to bring about the freedom of Mandela.
I first read her words in her book, Part of My Soul Went with Him, the tale of her imprisonments and banning’s –when she was sent to live alone in the whitest areas of South Africa by government order – and I wept.
Throughout it all, she never, ever stopped fighting for her husband, and never stopped resisting against the fascists of the regime.
Without such a beautiful and dynamic woman fighting on the outside, it is possible that Nelson Mandela would not have survived his long and brutal imprisonment.
She gave him hope – and something to fight for. Her fire kept him warm in the cold nights he spent on Robben Island, with sea winds blowing off the Atlantic Ocean.
Because they could not stop her voice, nor break her fiery spirit, the police state ordered her into internal exile, to leave her home in Soweto, to live in Bloemfontein, the heart of the Afrikaner republic; the whitest city in the land.
Winnie, being Winnie, continued to stage a lonely resistance for her husband, and his freedom.
Because she would not sign off on a deal that wouldn’t empower Africans, because she wouldn’t agree to a new political dispensation that left most Africans exploited, she became the bane of the corporate press.
They spat on her name.
Yet, for millions and millions of people, her brilliance, her beauty and her courage are like a torch in the mountains.
Indeed, she is adored.