Dr Hage G. Geingob
Having known Winnie Nomzamo Madikizela-Mandela personally, I find it difficult to share a short tribute and reflections about a dear sister, an outstanding anti-apartheid activist, a courageous prisoner of conscience, an affectionate mother and a freedom fighter par excellence.
When we reflect on the life of Comrade Winnie, her personal history richly reminds us that it takes courage for a mother and a wife to chase after the ideal of a fair society.
It reminds us that it takes exceptional ability for a freedom fighter and a prisoner of conscience to break barriers, remain mobilised and not be demoralised in the face of torture and harassment.
It also reminds us that it takes extraordinary determination to stand up against injustice and stick to one’s convictions, especially in the face of brutality, imprisonment, personal adversity and the shadow of death.
Comrade Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, a leading figure of the African National Congress, lovingly known as ‘Mother of the Nation’ or Mama Winnie is in the pantheon of Africans, who demonstrated exactly that extraordinary determination against injustice, for others to be unchained from the shackles of oppression to enjoy freedom. With untold commitment and perseverance, Comrade Winnie rose against the established traditional roles of patriarchy at the time to become almost singularly the symbol of female resistance against the racist Apartheid regime in South Africa. Mama Winnie could have chosen the traditional role of a housewife or the path of an ordinary citizen in Soweto.
She could have excelled as a social worker in Johannesburg, leading a normal life like others under those abnormal conditions of Apartheid oppression. Her destiny might have been different from the one of tumult, suffering and humiliation at the hands of the Apartheid regime. However, on the 2nd of April, which marked the Fourth Anniversary of the passing of a steadfast woman with unbending revolutionary zeal, we are poignantly reminded of the exceptional oeuvre of liberation and emancipation as imprinted in the legacy of Winnie Madikizela-Mandela.
Moreover, on the 26th of September 2022, which would have marked the 86th birthday of an icon of the struggles of the African people for freedom, we are once again reminded of the difficult path of a mother, who used the majesty and compassion of motherhood fully in service of the liberation of others.
Comrade Winnie was majestic because she cared; she nurtured and fought valiantly because of her selfless commitment to the emancipation of the oppressed black people wherever they found themselves in South Africa, in Africa and the diaspora. Therefore, we remember the late Winnie Madikizela-Mandela as a South African anti-apartheid activist and the perfect portrait of the African liberation struggle, who led from the front – but also knew when to lead from behind as Prisoner Number 1323/69 in Brandfort.
When the apartheid regime sought to silence, Comrade Winnie, through arrest under the notorious Suppression of Terrorism Act and banishing her to 491 days in solitary confinement and torture, the quiet force, resilience and determination of Comrade Winnie to fight Apartheid, remained unblemished.
Throughout her countless arrests, harassment and banishment, Winnie had reached a point of no return, telling the Apartheid regime, “you cannot intimidate people like me anymore”.
These attributes of resilience made Comrade Winnie a peculiar trailblazer, who inspired our struggle in Namibia and mobilised other women, through her deeds, to join our struggle for liberation. For us in Swapo, as a liberation movement, the history of our sister party, the African National Congress cannot be told without the history of Comrade Winnie as prisoner Number 1323/69.
We, therefore, pause today in honour of the life of a fearless daughter and mother of the African soil, whose selfless actions elevated her to become a leading figure in our struggle for freedom in Africa.
As we continue to reflect on her legendary life, there is no doubt that Winnie Madikizela-Mandela fought fiercely against oppression, racism and imperialism.
We are, indeed, comforted by the fact that she fought fiercely because, as a mother, she loved and cared about the black oppressed people of South Africa and Africa at large. Undoubtedly, it is difficult to pay a fitting tribute to Comrade Winnie as an expression of gratitude for her inspiring deeds.
However, the Namibian Government has honoured her by naming one of the longest streets in the capital after Comrade Winnie.
Earlier this year, Namibians posthumously celebrated her life of outstanding achievements by awarding Mama Winnie with the Most Brilliant Order of the Sun, First Class, in recognition of her invaluable contributions to the liberation of Namibia and South Africa.
Four years on, into eternity, we will ingrain and celebrate Comrade Madikizela-Mandela’s legacy of sacrifice, dedication and commitment.
Current and future generations will continue to feel her presence as her love shines Heaven’s light upon us. We will continue to preserve her memory as an icon of Africa’s liberation struggle.
Long live the memory of Comrade Winnie Mandela!
May the revolutionary soul of Mama Winnie continue to rest in eternal peace.