Winnie Mandela Turns 80, Vows to lead Marikana Campaignby BAR editor and columnist Dr. Marsha Adebayo

“She opposed the ANC compromises with the former apartheid regime and the disarming of the armed wing of the ANC Umkhonto we Sizwe (MK) in 1994.”
Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, commonly referred to as Mama Africa, turned 80 years old September 26Th. Her birthday celebration was held last week and attended by South African political comrades as well as bitter adversaries. Only an event such as this could entice political rivals such as the (ANC) Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa and expelled former African National Congress Youth League (ANCYL) president Julius Malema, now head of the Economic Freedom Fighters, to socialize.
What critics of Winnie Mandela would find difficult to deny is the immense imprimatur she had forged on South African politics and Black political thought throughout the world. Her struggle to liberate South Africa from apartheid continues to inspire activists around the world. For decades, she provided leadership to the anti-apartheid and the Free Nelson Mandela movement. But Winnie is a tour de force in her own right. She endured prolonged incarceration, torture and isolation at the hands of the apartheid regime. Mandela fought back with the same strident militancy and military spirit that Harriet Tubman brought to the struggle against white supremacy and the Confederacy.
The aftermath of the independence struggle posed new challenges for Madikizela-Mandela, in addition to her divorce from Nelson Mandela. She opposed the ANC compromises with the former apartheid regime and the disarming of the armed wing of the ANC Umkhonto we Sizwe (MK) in 1994. She openly criticized the abandonment of the Freedom Charter, a document that enunciated a set of core principles of the South African Congress Alliance, which consisted of the African National Congress (ANC) and its allies. This document, that captured the energy and commitment of the South African liberation movement, can be summed up by its opening demand: “The People Shall Govern.” The Charter was officially adopted on June 26 1955 at a Congress of the People in Kliptown. She openly exposed the acquiescence of the new Black South African petty bourgeois with white corporate interests and that of European and American economic interests.
“She endured prolonged incarceration, torture and isolation at the hands of the apartheid regime.”
Madikizela-Mandela was marginalized and betrayed during the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. In fact, she was excoriated, demeaned and humiliated concerning her political activities during the liberation struggle while the white murderers of Steve Biko and thousands of Black freedom fighters were exonerated in the name of national reconciliation and the delusional myth of a rainbow nation. The left wing of the ANC, such as represented by Chris Hani, was thrown under the bus while political opportunists capitulated to neo-liberal economic interest.
The Rainbow nation campaign was created in public relations corporate offices in the US and Europe. The goal was to distract Black folks in South Africa and the black world in general from the obscene maneuver by whites to retain economic power while offering high visibility political positions to Blacks. Recent political movements such as #Rhodesmustfall, which began March 9, 2015 at the University of Cape Town, gave rise to the #FeesMustFall movement with demands for free tuition in South African Universities and, recently, the #BringBackBraids movement led by young South African school girls who are refusing to straighten their hair in order to attend school. All of these movements are providing leadership to dismantle fundamental cultural and economic bedrocks of white supremacy. These movements are built upon previous struggles and certainly inspired, in part by the courage of leaders, such as Winnie Madikizela-Mandela.
During her short remarks at the Birthday celebration Madikizela-Mandela [3] noted: “I have to keep pinching myself and I wonder if I’m still alive…I’ve never heard of such accolade’s being given while someone is still alive…especially someone like me who always offends someone wherever I speak….”
True to her DNA as an advocate and activist, and with Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa in the audience, Madikizela-Mandela announced:
“When I get well, I am going to lead a campaign for the Marikana orphans and widows. That I can assure you! And you know who will support me…Deputy President [Ramaphosa]! He is going to find the budget from the white capital that’s here…he’s the one working with white capital and he’s sitting here (with white capitalists) right in front of me here. Thank you very much…please [Ramaphos] donate to the Marikana widows ….”
She ended her speech by proclaiming the slogan and demand of the liberation struggle: Amandla (Power!)
“She was excoriated, demeaned and humiliated concerning her political activities during the liberation struggle while the white murderers of Steve Biko and thousands of Black freedom fighters were exonerated in the name of national reconciliation and the delusional myth of a rainbow nation.”
Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa was allegedly involved in the 2015 Marikana massacre [4] in which 34 striking Black South African miners were murdered by South African security forces. These miners were striking for better working conditions and higher wages. South Africa, along with Russia, produces 90% of the world’s platinum reserve. The people of Marikana know the land is mineral rich, and last year they demanded a share of that wealth. The Marikana mine is owned by Lonmin, a London-based multinational firm. Interviewed during the strike, Mgcineni Noki [5], 34 a miner at Marikana said: “As you can see, we are not fighting, we are just sitting here, waiting for the employer to address our demands so we can go back to work.” But, Noki, never returned home to his family. Marikana was the bloodiest labor dispute in South African since the end of apartheid.
Widows and survivors of the Marikana massacre have called for 16 August to be declared a public holiday and that a monument be erected at the koppie where most of the miners died. [6]
Critics underestimate Winnie Mandela, even at 80 years old, at their peril. She is a force to be reckoned with. Appropriately, the Maya Angelo poem: “And Still I Rise” was read during her birthday celebration. Considering the trajectory of genocide towards Africans in the US with the recent murders of unarmed Black men, such as, Keith Lamont Scott and Terence Crutcher by national security forces, aka police, Winnie’s unfathomable and undeterred commitment to revolution in South Africa should provide inspiration to political activists in the US to defeat white supremacy and capitalist depredation on this side of the Atlantic.
Dr. Marsha Adebayo is the author of the Pulitzer Prize nominated: No FEAR: A Whistleblowers Triumph over Corruption and Retaliation at the EPA [7]. She worked at the EPA for 18 years and blew the whistle on a US multinational corporation that endangered South African vanadium mine workers. Marsha’s successful lawsuit led to the introduction and passage of the first civil rights and whistleblower law of the 21st century: the Notification of Federal Employees Anti-discrimination and Retaliation Act of 2002 (No FEAR Act). She is Director of Transparency and Accountability for the Green Shadow Cabinet, serves on the Advisory Board of ExposeFacts.com and coordinates the Hands Up Coalition, DC.