A well-known quote attributed to Eleanor Roosevelt says: ‘well behaved women seldom make history.’ It is a phrase that comes to mind when reflecting on the extraordinary life and extraordinary personality that was the stalwart of our Movement, Comrade Mama Winnie Madikizela- Mandela.

Inasmuch as she, like many activists of her generation, were made by the very circumstances that forged their activism – she stood out above the rest for her commitment to the liberation of the women of this country. With her passing, it has become incumbent upon us to firmly grasp the baton and take forward the race towards a truly non-racist, non-sexist, egalitarian, prosperous and free South Africa.

Much of the eulogizing of Comrade Madikizela-Mandela has focused on her political activism, and her firm and unwavering commitment to the cause of the downtrodden, the poor and the marginalized in society.

As we mourn her we will also never forget that we had an icon who taught us that South Africa could never be free until the women of South Africa were free. She was a tireless advocate for the women’s struggle in our country and on the continent and it can be said without doubt that the women of South Africa would not today enjoy the rights we do were it not for her and countless other activists like her. It is because of their sacrifices that we can today hold our heads up high.

When the ANC was banned in South Africa and the mere mention of the organization’s name could result in imprisonment – Mama Winnie and countless other dedicated activists kept the flames of resistance burning. Whether it was speaking out against apartheid, agitating for the release of female detainees or demonstrating against the pass laws, she stood at the forefront of the struggle for women’s rights in South Africa. All the women of South Africa owe her an immense debt.

She was a woman who faced the harshest of tribulations and had a life that would have broken the spirit of any human being. As we remember her we pore over the historical record as well as her life in her own words. She once wrote: “I no longer have the emotion of fear…there is no longer anything I can fear. There is nothing the government has not done to me, there isn’t any pain I haven’t known.”

Despite all attempts to break her spirit she remained steadfast and refused to cease with her political activism on behalf of this country’s women.

Mama Winnie had a deep and passionate aversion to injustice, and qualified as the first black female social worker in Johannesburg in the late 1950’s. It was through her social work at the then Baragwanath Hospital in Soweto that she became moved by the plight and living conditions of the black majority; and was motivated to use her learning and skills to uplift them.

Many women activists of her generation, and those that came after, will remember how she would always emphasize the need for women to be educated. She gave us confidence, led us by example and encouraged us to learn. For her it was not simply about receiving political education only – but that we needed to go to school and receive a secular education. She would tell us: “It’s not me alone who should be in this position (of having received a formal education) but all of you as well, young and old.” Many of us have fond memories of being in her home gathered in her kitchen as she cooked – when she would tell us that as important as it was to be involved in the struggle and fight for our country, that  we needed to prioritize formal education as well.

When she was elected a member of Parliament in the new South Africa she used her position to advocate for the political, social, and economic rights of women. She would remind us to never forget the reason we were there: to represent our communities; and that we should work tirelessly on their behalf.

Mama Winnie will be remembered for her legendary beauty, and it was she who gave us confidence as women that we could attain great heights as women, telling us “hold your head up high, you are you, and nobody can be you.”

She was an active member of the ANC Women’s League and was elected its President in 1993 a position she held for 10 years. She subsequently served on the National Executive Committee of the ANCWL for a number of years at a time when South Africa introduced some of the world’s most gender-friendly  and progressive policies to advance women’s rights.

We can say therefore that Mama Winnie did not die – she multiplied! Today in South Africa, the representation of women in the governing party the ANC, in Parliament and across government is amongst the highest in the world: exceeding even a number of developed countries whose democracies are far older than ours.

Many of these women have been nurtured, supported and guided by Mama Winnie: the honour of being known as Mother of the Nation is befitting and well-deserved.

It is testament to her influence that today it is young women, many of whom were born after our liberation, who are taking forward the gender struggle in civics, political, student and other formations. It is these young activists of whom Mama Winnie would be especially proud.

These brave daughters of Africa have inherited the mantle of struggle: they have defined their own mission and like Mama Winnie, have the absolute courage of their convictions. It was this courage, that saw her boldly confront the might of the apartheid regime – even physically, that made her a role model for so many of her generation and those who have come afterwards.

Her life found resonance amongst many of us who have ever had to endure victimization, discrimination and persecution on account of being black women.

Mama Winnie remained an active member of the movement. She lived and ended her life as a cadre of the ANC. At the same time, and despite her immense stature as an icon – she did so with humility and in acknowledgement of the many challenges still facing the movement and the country.

Mama Winnie did not belong to the ANC alone – she belonged to us all, and to all those around the world who identified with what she stood for, and who claimed her as their own. More specifically, she belonged to all the women of this country. We are comforted by the knowledge that the name of this great daughter of the soil will be forever illuminated in history and generations of women from today will remember her name.

It was the British author Julie Burchill who wrote: “sometimes tears are an inappropriate response to death. When a life has been lived completely honestly, completely successfully, or just completely, the correct response to death’s perfect punctuation mark – is a smile. “

Rest in Peace Mama.

Edna Molewa


The news of the passing of Mama Winnie Madikizela-Mandela found me unprepared and unwilling to accept the reality of such a grave tragedy for our people and our country.For many of us who have worked closely with her and got to know and learn from her, the news has been devastating and it had not been possible to provide an immediate reaction.

This is because in Mama Winnie, we have all lost a mother who shared everything with us.

Through her dedication to the struggle of our people, she had become the true embodiment of selflessness.It is this spirit of selflessness that has inspired many to emulate her, to know that nothing less than total submission to the cause of our people will bring about our freedom, even if this may come at a great personal cost, like it did with her.

In giving everything, Mama Winnie also lost everything.

She didn’t just campaign for the plight of the women, she lived this reality herself, every day, side by side with them. Whether it be in Soweto, prison and police stations, Brandfort and in the many informal settlements, Mama was a friend of the poor, the downtrodden and the true voice for the plight of oppressed women.

Trained as a social worker, she was a pioneer in community development. This work inspired us and gave us hope, even those of us who had been campaigning for the plight of our women while in exile.

Comrade Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula


Rest In Power Mother of the Nation, Mentor of the South African Youth.

Coming into terms with such a loss is not easy, especially for those among us who drew direct inspiration from her. She may have been old as per the dictates of nature, but she remained young to some of us since her influence and words of guidance reveberate like echoes on the hills and valleys occupied by the dispossessed. It was in the Congress of the South African Students (COSAS) when one got inspired by Mama Winnie Mandela’s contribution in the South African struggle. COSAS declared her as its lifetime President and such contributed immensely on the mobilization and agitation of leaners in particular and youth in general throughout the country. It was in COSAS where young women and men wished that they were old enough and there in the midst to partake in the struggle for liberation during the time when Mama Winnie was a subject of torture by the brutal regime of white supremacy.

There is no one on earth that can endure such brutal treatment as meted out against Mama Winnie by the white regime except those who were ambassadors and sympathizers of the regime. Mama Winnie was not a mistake of the struggle like many in our ranks who have shown that theirs was for the gravy train. She never succumbed into the pressures of compromises of a post-1994 South Africa nor being a pawn on the basis of blue light and tenders; remained true to her beliefs, held to her guns and called a spade by its name. We will forever be indebted to her resilience. She had a rare ability to not only speak truth to power but to make power truthful and truth powerful. Her and truth belonged to the same WhatsApp group, in fact they were both administrators of the group.

Many young women and man underwent their political circumcision inspired by her spirit and fearlessness in facing the enemy head on. I wish we could have replaced her death with those who are using the Movement to enrich themselves and their loved ones at the expense of the working class and the poor. I so wish we could have replaced you with those in youth leadership who uses the struggle and desperation of youth to create wealth for themselves and their unholy alliances. I hope we could replace your place in death by the ambassadors of corruption, greed, factionalism.

We may not need tires, patrol and matches now to fight the current struggles but we need your strength to face the worse enemy which has changed entirely from the days of your struggles though there are still remnants of the trait of the old enemy in the new. The enemy now is in the same skin as ours, eat on the same plate as ours, sing and chant the same slogans as ours. We wish to emulate you by being unapologetic and intolerant of wrong things and confront those who mimicked living angels using your name to find glory and prestige when they attempted to compel you to apologize for doing what the struggle instructed you to do.

Long live Mother of the Nation and we hope your departure will probably whisper a massage of change to all spheres of struggle particularly to the organization you were an integral part of, but most importantly the League you led with distinction. In you we had a responsible mother in the same way we had a resilient father in Cde Chris Hani who was brutally murdered by the regime which hated you and him with the same disdain. It is still awkward to believe that the hand of the regime was alone in planning and executing his assassination. Shine bright like a star that you will light up our dark paths as we navigate this terrain of struggle. Your death has given birth to many Winnie Mandela’s. You have defeated death. Live on young lady. Long live Winnie Mandela.

Isaac Luthuli
YCLSA Deputy National Secretary


For many years, as the generation of youth that were in the forefront of our country’s struggle for freedom and justice, we rejected and contested the tag ‘Lost Generation’, which our detractors sought to describe us as such.

It had been a description that attempted to present the struggle waged by our people and youth in particular, as directionless and without meaningful purpose.

In a twist of irony, however, “LOST” characterizes the summation of the feelings of many young people of our country, past and present, when the news of the passing of Cde Winnie Nomzamo Madikizela Mandela, Mother of the Nation broke up.

Mama Winnie is endeared in the hearts of those who have been subjected to the pain, suffering and oppression brought about by systematic exclusion and marginalisation in the past, and whose remnants remain in the present. She is also endeared in the hearts of many who cared about, and were equally incensed by injustice, the plight of the marginalised and those who suffered indignity, irrespective of where they may be from.

She was a warrior and combatant of all times and most importantly, there was no cause that she dedicated more of her time and passion to, than that of the youth and women of our country.

In the words of one former MK underground operative by the name of Mzolisi Dyasi, 

“I am so devasted by Mama’s untimely passing. I am so reminded of the ever-heroic gallant fighters of the people’s army, MK, sent down to P E. by Mama. The combatants were led by the commander, Sonwabo “Scara” Mdekazi (Malgas).

I would never forget the valiant fights put up by those Comrades before their safe houses were bulldozed by the hippos in what the special branch referred to as the bridging devices. 

Mama looked after our cell very well.

She looked after us when the 11 of us  were on trial. She invited me to her house after my release from prison.  Without her constant contact and advice, probably all of us could have died.

After every encounter with the police She would call just to tell us that She had heard that we hosted a “disco” the previous day.

A caring commander of all times.”

The youth of our generation correctly christened the Young Lion, who have always looked to her for wisdom and guidance and brought to her the pains of our suffering and wounds, are deeply overwhelmed by the passing of our tried and tested Comrade and friend who marched alongside us to challenge the brutal and unrepentant apartheid regime.

From humble beginnings, Mama Winnie knew first hand through upbringing the reality and brutality of living under oppressive conditions.

Although she had a rare opportunity of escaping conditions of poverty, Mama Winnie chose the side of the poor and downtrodden when she declined an opportunity to further her training in the United Stated after completion of her training as a Social Worker.

This is a demonstration of her unselfishness and commitment, that no matter the circumstances, she always chose the side of the people.

She was and continued to be of service to her people whatever the cost to her personal life.

This distinguished Her as one of the most consistent revolutionaries of our struggle.

She remained true to her commitment and demonstration of her being rooted among the People by not being enticed to relocate from amongst them, but by living with them and experiencing their daily struggles and lived in Soweto until the final moments of Her exemplary life. 

A true community worker to the end.

Mama Winnie was truly the Mother of our Nation.

In difficult times, in the face of her own persecution, she defied the odds and remained resolute in what she believed in.

This in order to fight for those who needed her protection most; her children and all of us.

She became the last bastion for the Movement, rising up more times than we can to intervene and resolved many challenges that may have derailed our Movement and our people’s march to freedom.

Those who have reveled in vilifying her, have done so because they represented a different will from the one She championed. They have sought to vulgarise hers and Her People’s  struggle, just like they did to the role of the youth that fought side by side with Her.

Her greatest sin, has been to shelter and encourage the young people to stand up and fight for a future they deserve.

Like a fearless Lioness, She became a buffer between the Young Lions and our enemy.

In the period leading to the June 1976 uprising, She rallied parents to be involved, being in the forefront of the establishment of the Parents Associations alongside the likes of struggle luminaries such as Dr Nthato Motlana.

She became our protector and was almost single handedly responsible for nurturing generations of youth leadership that have steered the structures and activism of our youth in SASM, COSAS, SAYCO, SANSCO, SUCA, YCS and so on.

It is a known fact that were it not for Her efforts and death defying militancy and commitment to the youth, the process to build the momentum that made it possible for the unbanning of the ANC and the SACP, and for the ANCYL to be re-established may not been possible. For this we owe Mama Winnie, among others, an immeasurable debt of gratitude.

A few witnesses and examples of her work which transcends generations are people such as Jackie Selebi, Billy Masetlha, Peter Mokaba, Rapu Molekane, Ephraim Mogale, Dipuo Peters, Febè Potgieter, Ephraim Nkwe, Fikile Mbalula, Julius Malema, among others.

The only way to honour Her is NOT to let Her efforts and sacrifices to have been in vain.

We must re-evaluate the kind of youth activism required to properly advance and emulate Her cause, to match her selflessness and commitment to building a better future for generations to come.

Mama Winnie, loved us and cared for the future of this country through its investment in its youth.

She did NOT separate freedom from education. She urged us to study and even in her golden years, found time to embrace and endorse the struggle for free education and the #feesmustfall movement.

With her passing away from this life, the world has experienced an over pouring mixture of grief, pain and adoration.

She has served Her people, led them to freedom, and even in death, continues to defy her detractors.







Lulu Johnson
For and on Behalf of the
Generation of Young Lions


Fellow South Africans,

It is with a profound sense of loss and deep sadness that we have learnt of the passing away of Mam’ Winnie Madikizela-Mandela.

Even at the darkest moments of our struggle for liberation, Mam’ Winnie was an abiding symbol of the desire of our people to be free.

In the midst of repression, she was a voice of defiance and resistance.

In the face of exploitation, she was a champion of justice and equality.

Throughout her life she made an everlasting contribution to the struggle through sacrifice and her unyielding determination. Her dedication to the plight of her people gained her the love and the respect of the nation.

For many years, she bore the brunt of the senseless brutality of the apartheid state with stoicism and fortitude. Despite the hardships she faced, she never doubted that the struggle for freedom and democracy would succeed.

She remained throughout her life a tireless advocate for the dispossessed and the marginalised. She was a voice for the voiceless.

In the coming days, as we mourn the passing of this heroine of our struggle, let us reflect on her rich, remarkable and meaningful life.

Let us draw inspiration from the struggles that she fought and the dream of a better society to which she dedicated her life.

Today we have lost a mother, a grandmother, a friend, a comrade, a leader and an icon.

As South Africans we collectively pass our condolences to the Madikizela and Mandela families. Your loss is our loss as well.

May her soul rest in peace.
President Cyril Ramaphosa


The biggest tree has fallen

A woman  amongst women has fallen.
An icon of the struggle, iqhawe lamaqhawe lihambile!

Umaphuma efumbethe esiswini sikanina aze ahambe efumbethe ukuba yinkokheli yabantu.
South Africa has a long time to wait until she gets such a lioness who fought the apartheid regime as well as the oppression and patriarchy within the ANC, her movement, with the might it deserved.

A real daughter of the soil, the rock of our nation is no more. My heart is bleeding but I know the hearts of many a woman is celebrating because of what she  did for them.

She fought tirelessly, defending the whole nation up until the enemy misguided with the hope of destroying her but she prevailed and as usual stood the test of time.

I am so sorry that Queen mother from the United States will not be able to see Mam’Winnie as she told our SG Meokgo in the UN recently that it was very urgent that she met Mama Winnie! I am sorry to you SG that this happens whilst you were preparing for Queen Mother’s journey to South Africa.

I am sure that much as we are crying we are proud to be her products, we are proud because she gave us an opportunity to Celebrate her life where women like Hendrietta Bokgopane-Zulu and Criselda Kananda Dudumashe had an opportunity to wear the women’s league blouse in her presence.

Throughout that process of celebrating her life, she allowed us to show our small ability to honor her bravery, her love, commitment and ability of an unassuming daughter of the soil.

Nothing was ever able to shut her down! When Bab’uGwala told us that Mam’ Winnie never joined government but joined the ANC when she was fired from Cabinet, we were made better persons with Sis’ Thandi Modise and Lulu Xingwana. We wanted to fight for her to remain in Cabinet and Bab’uGwala said no one can expel Winnie from the ANC and indeed no one expelled her from the her Organisation, the ANC.

She and Bab’Gwala marshalled very angry forces who had numerously been attacked  by the third force and the forces of darkness at the memorial service of Chris Hani in Pietermaritzburg’s former market square. It was during that period at a Stadium in Johannesburg where Bab’uGwala predicted that South Africa will never be the same .

I have known so many people in the ANC, I have come across many heroes and heroines of the struggle but I have never come across such a fighter who would fight without any support from her own or even disowned by her own but continued with the fight for liberation and her own personal freedom without any weapon.

Mama sent young people out of the country to train as freedom fighters for the liberation of the country .

Mam’ Winnie had love for everyone, her children, the children of the struggle, the soldiers of umkhonto weSizwe, she even loved those that hated her with a passion. She was a real soldier and welcomed the whites who were a symbol of apartheid and repression.

Touch the ANC and you touch her soul. Touch her kids, touch Shell house and Touch the youth league, you will know you have touched her

Touch Chris Hani, Touch Harry Gwala, Tony Yengeni, Jeff Radebe, Peter Mokaba, Bantu Holomisa!

Touch Ace Magashule, Touch the women you will see her!

Mama would have been much satisfied if the struggle was won in the battlefield but she accepted the decision of the leadership to negotiate.

She had respect for MaSisulu,  MaTambo, Mme Matomela. She had great respect for Charlotte Maxeke, Ida Mntwana,   an orator like her, Lillian Ngoyi, for Ray Alexander  and Mam’Holo, MaBertha and Mme Ruth Mompati.

Mam’Winnie did not mind us meeting at Shaft 17 as long as there was progress and vibrancy in the women’s league. Women wanted to hear from her at all time, women and young people and the society at large always wanted to surround her like the Queen she was.
She loved and had a soft spot for Peter Mokaba, Lulu Xingwana,  Malusi Gigaba and more for Fikile Mbalula and Julius Malema for their roaring voices and their ability to shake the youth to defend the ANC .

A beautiful woman inside and outside. A beautiful woman who had her contest with the masses of the country. She had the toughest of contests. It was one of war meant to be fought by men and not just ordinary men but only brave men and women who participated in this struggle.

Her contest was not for the wicked but for those who had a very deep understanding of the freedom of the mind;  freedom from the chains of apartheid and  freedom from poverty.

Her spirit was never dampened by Brandfort instead she was more productive and she liberated herself from banishment 

Mam’ Winnie never undermined the people of South Africa. She reminded me that I was from the rural areas whenever she made us drink water or Amarewu. A very neat woman who would serve us with her best cutlery and crockery. She kept reminding us who we were and where we came from through her actions not through her words.

Only she, a special leader, who led by example. She was able to keep the pain inside her beautiful heart. She never cried in the presence of those who were suffering but she would become a lioness and cry during her private moments. You would only see her watery shining eyes when it was difficult. Never could shed a tear.

It is very heartening that a woman who was crucified by many goes during this period of Easter. Mam’ Winnie refused to be confined! She would come to an ANC rally draped in her John Wesley women’s manyano uniform for she knew the power of prayer.

Makhosikazi, let us all in our numbers pray for the spirit of Mom Winnie to Rest In Peace.
Let us pray for the Nation, let us for forgiveness. There was a lot of good that was done by Mam’Winnie.

Hamba kahle Zanyiwe! Hamba Kahle qhawe lamaqhawe!
Hamba Kahle Mangutyana!

Mama, you earned being Mother of the Nation and no one could take that away from you! We will always love you Mama.

Sohlala sikukhumbula!

Thank you Zenani and Zindzi for sharing your Mom with the Nation. Thank you to Mama’s grandchildren for sharing your grandmother with the Nation. Thank you to the Madikizela and the Mandela family for sharing your daughter with us. Thank you to the people of  Mbizana and her family especially her siblings for sharing Mama with us .

Thank you Mama for being a visionary and sharing your medical social work with the Nation.

Thank you to Sis’ Zodwa and everyone who did the work of the Nation by looking after Mam’ Winnie with love and excellence.
Thank you for you love and patience. Thank you for your accepting everyone and opening your hearts to each and everyone of us.


Roar young lions roar!!!

Bathabile Dlamini
President of the ANCWL


It is with great sadness that we learnt of the untimely death of Mama Winnie Mandela, the recipient of the Order of Luthuli Award in Silver for bravery.

Winnie Mandela was a pillar of our struggle for liberation in the struggle against the most atrocious apartheid regime. The ANC Veterans League sends its deepest condolences to the Madikizela and Mandela families.

Following is a poignant account from the President of the Veterans League, who knew and worked with this giant of our movement during those dark and seemingly horrid times of our struggle.
“I was introduced to the ANC when I was very young, angry and militant, by Winnie Mandela and worked with her when it was not fashionable to be associated with our glorious movement. it is unimaginable that she is no more.”

He elaborates: “I remember vividly when I met her in 1966 in down town Johannesburg where she was working as a secretary. We spoke quietly in hushed tones on how evil and atrocious the apartheid system was, a system which denied millions of South Africans their birthright. The topic then focused on the hated Bantu education system designed for black South Africans, the appalling and segregated living conditions, how workers’ rights were trampled upon on a daily basis, and the daily harassment and torture of those who dared raise their voices in defiance of the obnoxious system where blacks were made hewers of wood and drawers of waters.

It was only when she invited me to her home in Orlando West in Soweto that she spoke freely and we started planning on how we could mobilize and organize the youth to become active participants in the struggle against apartheid.

Winnie never revealed her identity then. She was a leader in her own right. She was not in the struggle because she was married to Nelson Mandela, but was a committed and dedicated member of the ANC.

She later introduced us to incorrigible leaders like Samson Ndou, Marita Ndzanga and her husband Lawrance Ndzanga, Elliot Shabangu, Joyce Sikakane, and Sam Poloto.

As the militant youth of the day, we wanted to be trained on how to handle weapons and explosives. We had already identified targets that were going to disrupt the South African economy.
Winnie was very patient by then and insisted on us receiving political training especially on the aims and objectives of the ANC and the Freedom Charter.

I recall that we had to recite the Freedom Charter like a bible and only then were we introduced to underground training in the handling of sensitive information. The training included production of leaflet bombs, distribution of ANC underground material, manufacturing of Molotov cocktails and learning how to infiltrate MK cadres who would train us internally.

Yes, we researched oh how we can procure weapons from the armaments factories of Denel and Armscor. We became responsible for distributing and setting up of leaflet bombs in the Johannesburg City Centre.

It was in May 1969 when more than 120 ANC activist were rounded up, arrested and detained under the notorious Section 6 of the Terrorism Act of 1967.The notorious Act allowed the state to detain members of society who were opposed to apartheid for 180 days without trial.

Twenty one of us spent 12 months in solitary confinement and 6 months on trial, first under the Suppression of the Communism Act and were later detained and charged under the Terrorism Act.
We were severely tortured, but our spirits and the resolve to fight the apartheid regime were never dampened.

Comrade Benjamin Ramotse, who was kidnapped from Botswana and brutally tortured, stood trial with us and was sentenced to 15 years imprisonment on Robben Island.

After our trial in September 1970, we were all banned under the Suppression of Communism Act of 1950. A banned person endured severe restrictions on their movement, political activities, and associations intended to silence their opposition to the government’s apartheid policies and stop their political activity.

Later, when some of us left the country in 1974 to re-enforce the activities of the ANC in exile in Botswana, Zambia, Tanzania, Angola and Bulgaria, comrade Winnie Mandela remained as the pillar of our struggle in the country, soldiering on without let or hindrance.

She was banned, harassed and banished to Brandfort. She, however, stood firm on her political convictions. She expressed he bravery, always fighting for the interest of the poor. She strived to overcome the terrible conditions of apartheid and never gave up.”

Comrade Winnie Mandela, “Mother of the Nation”, you will always be remembered for the contribution you have made in the struggle for liberation.
The ANC Veterans League dips its revolutionary banner in honour of this extraordinary giant of our struggle.

Lala ngo Xolo. Hamba Kahle Qhawe la Maqhawe

Snuki Zikalala
President of the ANC Veterans League


By Jacob Zuma

The African National Congress (ANC) has dedicated this year to OR Tambo because we are marking the centenary of his birth; and equally, to honour him, considering the role he played as a leader of the ANC, yes, but also given the manner in which he provided leadership to the ANC under very difficult conditions.

I am often asked to recount my fondest memories of this great man. Some of them are

serious, others funny, some very petty, and others very small.

What stands out most for me was that he was a thinker: he was a man with which you

could discuss anything. By equal measure, he was a very good listener. What always stood out for me was that you could engage in lengthy conversation, at the end of which you would realize he had been listening to and remembered every word. He chaired the National Executive Committee (NEC) for many years – at a time when such meetings met for a full week. It was in these meetings that the leadership of the ANC had time to debate and re-debate the issues at length, until we were all very clear.

This was because OR wanted members particularly at the leadership level to be thorough and clear on the issues and not discuss them superficially. He was of the view that when the time comes for you to represent the ANC you will not easily go wrong. His rigour stood out: he paid great attention to detail, so if the time came for you to present a report you needed to be very clear on your story because he would question you in detail.

OR Tambo believed unity was paramount. Not just unity of the organization but of the South African people – and he worked tirelessly to achieve it. He was not a man who favoured some above others; and we all took him as our father. I always say that even if someone complained to him about having lost their shoelaces, he would make it an issue that this person’s concerns were addressed. Such was his humility, and his concern for everyone, regardless of rank, position or status. His character and demeanour was such that anyone who had problem felt they could approach him because he would give you his time. No matter what you said, he would not look down on you, and made you feel important. Even if he was walking past you he would stop and pay attention to you – he was that kind of a leader.

It was OR who brought about a political culture of building consensus within the organization, as opposed to simply voting on matters. For him, you couldn’t just meet and discuss the issues – then pass on. It was under his leadership that building consensus emerged as the political culture of the movement. We discussed and discussed sufficiently – and by the time we concluded the issue we are all be on the same page. Namely that you, an individual were wrong, and that the meeting was right.

He was an ordinary leader, but he commanded the respect of the organization. It was not a respect he demanded, but one that came naturally because he gave each and every one his space. Although he was very particular and thorough in planning, in running the organization and in articulating his ideas, he never went out of his way to offend people. He was the consummate diplomat; so much so that even if he said you were wrong you wouldn’t feel hurt because he would explain his position to you in detail. That said, he did not hesitate to enforce party discipline. If you went wrong or were difficult, believe me he would deal with you in a way that you would never want to be difficult again.

Despite his immense responsibilities, he had time for individuals, for the collective, for the organization, and for the world. Such was his stature as an extraordinary statesman of his time that in international conferences when he would be taking the podium, all bilateral consultations would reduce because people would want to come listen to him.

Having visited Zambia recently where we had a ceremony in the home he lived in brought back memories for me of the day OR was attacked by a stroke. I remember the emotional state of all of us, myself included.

I asked myself a question: will the ANC remain the same? This was because I was convinced the ANC would never be the same again. What I believed then still holds true today. We have had many great leaders in the ANC, but OR was a man who exemplified the qualities of extraordinary leadership.

He was a man who believed in nurturing and mentoring young leaders, and did not hesitate to give serious tasks to younger generations. I remember one day discussing the very issue we were sitting in Maputo with him where he said “ this generation has done its job.. we should now allow the young people who have the potential to lead the organization, to do so.”

He drew on his own experience opening a provincial conference in 1969 soon after he had been elected as ANC Deputy President. So thorough and confident was the political analysis of the world that he gave that Chief Luthuli, who was at that conference, made a comment to the effect that elder generation even if they leave today, were leaving the organization in good hands.

If I had to write a letter to OR today I would say: My Leader, My President, I remember you all the time. Today, a century since his birth, I remember OR being a man of

incredible foresight. The other great ANC leader Moses Mabhida used to say that OR saw things years before we did, when we were yet to grasp their significance.

He always told us: the struggle is tough – but rest assured that running a country is even more difficult than fighting for freedom. What some don’t acknowledge often enough is that OR lived during the struggle. He did not live during the period he said would be more difficult than fighting for freedom. He would always say: “it is easy to break bridges when you are fighting the enemy, but when you are free it is your responsibility to build those very bridges.”

This is precisely what we are challenged with as a country today. One’s your values, understanding, everything, is in theory one thing –but putting it into practice can be quite another.

The issue for us is how do we maintain the values we all believe in, and implement them today. The people looked up to us to help liberate them, and how they expect many things from us: and sometimes the means are not there to do it all, or as quickly as they expect you to.

It is at such times that we need to examine the legacy of OR and redouble our efforts in order to succeed.

I would conclude my letter to him by saying that indeed, you were right – running a country is more difficult than fighting for freedom.


Jacob Gedleyihlekisa Zuma is the President of the African National Congress


By Precious Banda
This women’s month, we would like to pay tribute to the heroine of our people Dora Tamana. We choose Dora Tamana because she is one of the most outstanding women who contributed in advancing women’s struggles at an epoch when our oppressed people were becoming highly organised and the apartheid oppressive regime even more brutal between the 1940 – 50s. What makes Dora Tamana more outstanding for us is that she was a communist. The observation we make is that communist liberation struggle women unlike their male counterparts are less celebrated and remembered.
We will one day ask the movement as to why there is so little knowledge and political lectures given to young people today on Dora Tamana, Jossie Mpama and many other Communist women who contributed to the liberation of our people. As an aspiring communist young women, our interest is to know women who came before us, their contribution and how they confronted patriarchy in the Party and the movement in general. It is for this reason that we choose to honour Mama Dora Tamana. she is one of the pioneering women who worked very hard and contributed in making the 1956 Women March a success.
What sets Mama Dora Tamana apart is that she had a very difficult upbringing, she had to look out for her siblings at an early age. Even after she got married, her life was that of difficulties having to lose her own kids to death and a husband who abused alcohol. What we learn from her upbringing is that she was resilient. She still managed to stand up and come up with initiatives that don’t only help her but also her community. We learn from her that our past must not determine our future because she chose to stand and fight for herself and her people. Her resilience and perseverance show us that women are indeed the rock a community is built. From a woman who struggled to make ends meet for her family to a leader of community initiatives that provided for many disadvantaged people, this is the Dora Tamana we must all aspire to be.
Our leaders must address the concern our people have of social distance. We often see our leaders reach out to communities only during elections time, conference times or some annual commemoration on our political calendar. Dora Tamana lived and struggled with her people, she led from the front. She believed in education and the welfare of children that’s why she opened a Crèche in her community in 1938 to care for the children. At this time when the masses of our people raise concerns about social distance with the movement and our leaders, we must emulate Dora Tamana and we must all be active participants of community initiatives in the areas we live in and encourage our people to be action oriented.
Mama Dora Tamana was a true activist and an all rounder of all alliance formations, she was a unionist and led workers, she was actively involved in the ANC, she joined the Communist Party at a very young age inspired by the evictions she suffered with her family and community and the need to fight the oppressive regime for dispossessing them. She was a founder member of the federation of South African Women and was elected its first National Secretary in 1954. The FEDSAW Congress in 1954 adopted the Women Charter as a lobbying and guiding document to advance women struggles. They clearly understood that the struggle for freedom had to be fought side by side with the struggle for women emancipation. She believed in the unity of women in advancing their struggle hence she was part of the diverse women and organisations that came together to form the Federation of South African Women.
As a Communist Woman she participated in the ANCWL. What is critical is that she knew that views of the working class and the poor must find expression in the ANCWL. Today women who differ with the posture of the ANCWL disassociate themselves with the organisation of women by saying they cant be members. What must be our attitude is that we must be members of the ANCWL and contest its views in the structures. We must be there in its Congresses and programmes and contend what we disagree with than to give up on the organisation that organises women of our country. It is in its structures where we must interogate the leadership as to whether they are staying true to the mandate underpinned in the aims and objectives of the ANCWL of Dora Tamana. She never gave up on advancing women struggles and that’s why we must never give up on the organisation she helped to shape.
Leaders must always lead from the front. Dora Tamana did just that, she organised her community and women in defiance campaigns against pass laws that limited our people movement in their own Country. She was brave and not a coward who waited for others to act. She was ready for the consequences of the path she had chosen but more determined to end the oppressive regime and its laws. When women were going to Pretoria for the March from Cape Town where she was based, they were inspired by her and they used trains without giving up and they participated in the historic March. Leaders must be able to  inspire others the way Dora Tamana did.
Dora Tamana understood that our struggles are interlinked with all the oppressed people of the world. It is for that reason that herself and other women embarked on an international tour to mobilise support against the oppressive apartheid regime. They enlightened the world about the atrocities of the regime on black people and women in particular. She was an internationalist. When they returned from the international tour, she and five other women were listed under the suppression of Communism Act and in April 1955 she was banned from participating in political gatherings and meetings for five years. In the 1960s she served two jail sentences but she never gave up on the struggle. Even when she suffered poor health she still continued to talk to women at different events and urge them to continue to fight. She passed on in 1983.
Today more than before, we need to ask ourselves whether the struggles that Dora Tamana stood for are being taken forward. She initiated cooperatives because she wanted women to be able to provide for their families through those cooperatives. Dora Tamana stood for oppressed women, the women in the Country side and the deep of villages. She stood for women defranchised by harsh living conditions in townships, the farm worker women who everyday brave the weather to produce for farm owners who continue to dehumanise them, the house helpers who look after homes of their employers for little appreciation, the wife, girlfriend and daughter who has to endure abuse, violence and rape culture, those and many more are women that Dora Tamana stood and fought for. If we believe that we are taking the struggles of our hero forward, we must then ensure we change their living conditions of the downtrodden and defranchised women for the better.
We must also refuse to compound women struggles and emancipation as an event of the month of August. Our struggles are from far and we must continue to fight until we have the ideal society we aspire for. Patriarchy must be confronted daily and in all spaces we occupy. The struggle against Patriarchy and the emancipation of women existed through out the evolution of the liberation movement and we must continue to do so today both in form and content. Long Live the radical undying spirit of Mama Dora Tamana. Malibongwe
Precious Banda is the former Treasurer General of SASCO and member of the YCLSA National Committee and Political Commission