Since Monday April 2, 2018, when Mama Winnie Nomzamo Madikizela-Mandela, (hereafter referred to as Mama Winnie), the servant-leader and gallant fighter for African freedom and dignity in South Africa, passed on, progressive people the world over have been stricken by grief and pain.
As we celebrate and honour her selfless sacrifices and contributions to the uplift of a cross section of people in South Africa in particular, we are in grief and pain because for three decades she was the north star that provided light, hope and solace to millions of people who were in the inferno of apartheid.
Although Oliver Reginald Tambo (1917-1993) was the moral and intellectual compass in the struggle against apartheid after the Riviona Treason Trials in 1964 and the subsequent imprisonment of Nelson Mandela and other leaders of the African National Congress (ANC) in Robben Island, it was largely the indomitable courage of Mama Winnie that resonated with the great majority of common people and more than kept the flame for the liberation of South Africans burning.
In a significant way, it was by the force of her personality, the example of her commitment to the cause of African freedom and dignity in South Africa and the courageous defiance of her inhumane treatment, that she did not only give anti-apartheid movement a relatable-to human face, but also captivated and inspired progressive people the world over to empathise and to join in solidarity with the struggle against the vile apartheid system.
Even the harshest treatments to which she was subjected during the darkest days of apartheid, as when for example, she was placed under solitary confinement for 491 days from 1968- 1970, and then banished from 1977-1985 to the Afrikaner town of Brandfort in Free State, could not diminish her determination to the cause of her people’s freedom. Instead, she wore the scars of apartheid as a badge of honour, with elegance; and carried the crushing cross of suffering under apartheid defiantly, with fearless pride and dignity