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.
YOU LIVE ON IN EACH ONE OF US.
WE ARE EACH A TESTIMONY OF THE WORK YOU HAVE DONE IN THIS WORLD.
THE YOUNG LIONS OF OUR COUNTRY SALUTE YOU.
LALA NGOXOLO MOTHER OF OUR NATION, Ah! NOBANDLA!
HAMBA KAHLE MKHONTO!
FREEDOM OR DEATH! VICTORY IS CERTAIN!
For and on Behalf of the
Generation of Young Lions