The first question we should ask ourselves at this moment is; are we mourning the passing of Mama Winnie Madikizela-Mandela or are we celebrating the life of Mama Winnie Madikizela-Mandela?
My own choice is that, there is no reason to mourn because Mama Winnie has done everything that should be done by a human being. In celebrating her life, we should acknowledge that Mama Winnie defied all odds from a very young age.
It is said, that she was the first black medical social worker. That was her first defiance of the odds. She invaded space that was reserved for white social workers.
Being a social worker as a profession is a commitment to serve. Social workers are never driven by the desire to earn a lot of money. They are driven by the desire to serve, hence they get satisfaction from counselling those who are in trouble. That is Mama Winnie
She got married to a very imposing character, the late Isithwalandwe/Seaparankoe, President Rolihlahla Mandela. That was a big decision to make on its own. She got married to the trouble itself. That is a major decision reflecting the character of a person. They had two daughters.
Mama Winnie refused to be dwarfed in the shadow of Nelson Mandela. She emerged as herself. She grew to be a political leader in her own right.
Mama Winnie was not a leader because she was married to President Mandela.
She was one of the most outspoken leaders of the ANC.
Mama Winnie was in the belly of the beast in Brandfort, facing the enemy face-to-face. It will be unfair of all of us to try and find fault in what she did. We must appreciate that she was in the warzone commanding forces. In that process, there will be victories and mistakes, there will be setbacks and other victories. If we could understand that, negativity about her will never exist.
In 1986, an incident occurred in Mpumalanga wherein 177 mineworkers were killed in 1 day, nobody else came but Mama Winnie. Upon her arrival, she taught us a basic lesson that, that was not just an accident, it reflected the brutality of capital and capitalism as a system.
She also visited when there was a disaster in Welkom.
She went across terrains mobilising people for a command issued by the then President of the ANC, President Oliver Tambo, to make South Africa ungovernable and apartheid institutions unworkable.
Nobody is more known and respected in informal human settlements more than Mama Winnie because she was in the belly of the beast. We must appreciate that being in this position, you take decisions on your feet. Therefore, you cannot be penalised for your mistakes. Instead, you must be recognised for the risk you take and the ability to come out of that situation and lead another skirmish.
When the ANC was unbanned, there was a big debate on the 30% representation of women in any elected structure of the ANC. Mama Winnie’s fingerprints on this are very prominent and visible. Women won the debate. They increased it later to at least 50%. Mama Winnie was involved
We cannot celebrate Mama Winnie when we are divided. If we are still organised as CR17 and NDZ, we are far from celebrating her life. Let us fight factionalism wherever it manifest itself to have a strong ANC.
To reinstate trust in the ANC among the people, we should not just talk about the fight against corruption and state capture. We must be seen to be fighting it. We must deal with the inflation of prices in projects.
If we are to celebrate Mama Winnie’s life, the ANC should be seen leading a clean governance. She would have loved that. She would have loved to see an ANC that is free of corruption. She would have loved to see an ANC that does not delegate the responsibility of governing.
The ANC must be united. A united ANC will win the elections next year. People have hope. People are beginning to reinstate their trust in the ANC. However, they expect the ANC to act decisively with the necessary speed. If we don’t do that, they will be disappointed and turn their backs on us.
Personally, Mama Winnie didn’t treat me as a leader. She treated me as a child. However, when she had to respect me as a leader, she accorded me that respect. When she had to scold me as a child, she did that.
With the passing of Mama Winnie Nomzamo Madikizela-Mandela, her characters reflect in us the living. Her closed eyes opened the eyes of the living.
May her soul rest in peace!
This is the edited tribute to Mama Winnie Madikizela-Mandela delivered at a Memorial Service in Brandfort
Gwede Mantashe – National Chairperson of the African National Congress and the Minister of Mineral Resources