By Ace Magashule
Comrades and friends, the Madikizela and Mandela families, members of the African National Congress, fellow South Africans:
The African National Congress (ANC) and South Africa today mourns the passing of a titan of the liberation struggle, a revolutionary, and a stalwart of our glorious movement – Mama Nomzamo Winifred Madikizela-Mandela. The ANC lowers its revolutionary banner in honour of the memory of this great woman who was so loved and revered, whose name will forever be inscribed in history as having played a formative role in the history of South Africa. Mama Winnie, as she was popularly known, would have celebrated the rich age of 82 years in September this year, but it was not meant to be. We mourn the passing of this great patriot and Pan Africanist, whose resilience and courage inspired freedom struggles not only in South Africa, but across Africa and her diaspora. Comrade Madikizela-Mandela dedicated her life to the betterment of her people and she worked for this realization right until the end of her life.
The harshest of tribulations and struggles in the liberation struggle
She was an inspiration to both young and old who shared her vision of an egalitarian, prosperous and free South Africa – and generations of activists not just in South Africa but around the world today deeply mourn her as we do. Such was her impact as an activist and revolutionary around the world, that until the very end of her life, she was lauded and acknowledged for her contribution to the struggles of all oppressed peoples of the world. Not so long ago, she was conferred with an honorary Doctorate of Laws by the prestigious and internationally renowned Makerere University. The life of Mama Winnie epitomized selflessness, humility, and fortitude: characteristics that she embodied throughout her life. Hers was a life where she faced the harshest of tribulations and struggles as punishment for her dedication to the liberation struggle. As her name Nomzamo testifies, she faced and underwent trials that would have broken the spirit of any human being. But hers was an extraordinary spirit that would not be quelled no matter what the hardship.
Her early exposure to apartheid in the Village of Mbongweni, Bizana in the Transkei, where she was born to Columbus and Nomathamsanqa Mzaidume Madikizela, on 26 September 1936, inspired in her a lifelong hatred of injustice and racism. It was this early exposure, and later as a young social worker in Johannesburg, that set her on a lifelong path, joining the ranks of celebrated freedom fighters of the African National Congress and the broad liberation movement in the 1950s. She counted amongst her friends and inspiration at the time the likes of Lilian Ngoyi, Helen Joseph, Ma Albertina Sisulu; Florence Matomela, Frances Baard, Kate Molale, Ruth Mompati, Hilda Berstein and Ruth First. She had a deep and passionate aversion to injustice in all its forms and 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. This motivated her to use her learning and skills to uplift them.
Nothing could break her fighting spirit
Imprisonment, banning, harassment, house arrest, solitary confinement and having her husband and father of her children, Isithwalandwe Tata Nelson Mandela, imprisoned for 27 years did not break Mama Winnie’s fighting spirit. Due to her unwavering leadership her home became a pilgrimage site for many leaders and members of various communities. We can without any doubt of contradiction that her entire life was lived selflessly and in servitude. This led to her kids being victims at an early age. She became a widow and single parent while her husband lived and was incarcerated at Robben Island. During this period Winnie embodied the values that her then husband Nelson Mandela stood and suffered for. Having passed on, the ANC commits to intensify the struggle that became her life. We will ensure that her spirit & resolve stay with us. She tirelessly campaigned for the release of Nelson Mandela and other political prisoners, gave refuge to those running from the police, harboured combatants of Umkhonto we Sizwe returning to or leaving the country, always an active part of whichever community she found herself in.
Comrade Madikizela-Mandela was an activist in her own right, and will be remembered for having stood at the forefront of the struggle for women’s rights in South Africa – taking part in a number of demonstrations against the unjust pass laws. When the ANC was banned in South Africa and the mere mention of the organisation’s name could result in imprisonment – Mama Winnie and countless other dedicated activists kept the flames of resistance burning; speaking out against apartheid, against detentions without trial, against the pass laws, and against the brutality of the apartheid regime. For this she paid a heavy price. She was first incarcerated in 1958 and over the years would face many more such detentions and banishment including solitary confinement. Despite all these attempts to break her spirit, she remained steadfast and refused to cease with her political activism, displaying exemplary courage that made her a role model for many young women activists in South Africa.
She never hesitated to speak out whenever she saw the ANC going off course
In the advent of unbanning Mama Winnie played a crucial role as the NEC member of the ANC , a position she held for 26 years and as the President of the ANCWL. During this period she became a consistent voice of reason and a champion of the voiceless. She also embraced her role as a government Minister and member of Parliament with tenacity. Mama Winnie will be remembered for her unwavering belief in the unity of the African National Congress; and her advancing years did not prevent her from remaining an active member of the ANC. As a veteran of the movement and the struggle she never hesitated to speak out whenever she saw the ANC going off course. 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. We remember her qualities as an activist and a leader, and also her revolutionary discipline and commitment to the founding principles and values of the ANC. She lived and ended her life as a cadre of the ANC.
To the Madikizela-Mandela family, we share this incomprehensible loss of an icon of our struggle. Your loss and pain runs through our structures for Winnie belonged to greater family of the African National Congress and the formations of the liberation movement. We are grateful to her for having bequeathed us a lasting legacy and inspiration to serve our people. Be comforted by the knowledge that the name of this great daughter of South Africa will forever be illuminated. Go well, loyal and trusted servant of the Most High.
The African National Congress will be meeting with her family to plan the sending off of this giant of our revolution.
Lala kahle Qhawekazi! You will never, ever be forgotten.
Ace Magashule is Secretary General, African National Congress
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