A tribute to Nomzamo Winnie Madikizela Mandela

A tribute to Nomzamo Winnie Madikizela Mandela

We are indeed in an interregnum. The old is dying and the new is not ready to emerge as the ‘new’ in the truest expression of that formulation. Nomzamo Winnie Madikizela Mandela is the throbbing nationalist sentiment that was thwarted and demonised in the African National Congress (ANC) project. This is the same project that eventually saw the breakway of the Africanists like Robert Sobukwe in 1959 and the muzzling of the ‘gang of eight’ which was led by Tennyson Makiwane.

If one judges her life in combat, one sees that here was a leader who was unashamedly in the business of loving and defending the dignity of black people generally and women particularly. A strong leader who led by example, she trampled fiercely on sexist convention which made political work the preserve of black men who felt stripped of their manhood by the apartheid regime.

Our beloved mother’s passing must make us meditate on this vacuum of ethical and servant leadership. Her passing must be a call to action, especially for the youth, to emulate and surpass her and her generation. It must be a call to reinvigorate the nationalist project inside the ANC and society generally. Her passing must mean a revisiting of what she, and her generation, missed and those must be corrected. This means we must get to understand, as Bob Marley said on the song Zimbabwe, “who are the real revolutionaries” in this post-1994 dispensation of nominal power for a ruling party that is mandated by a hungry, landless and equally powerless majority.

This quest for understanding and critical inquiry must also open up space for us to question how the genuine struggle for women’s liberation failed while she and her generation had nominal power as part of the ANC Women’s League. How did they let their beloved ANC be captured by white monopoly capital (externally and internally) such that its policies ended up keeping intact the hellish conditions that made their breasts burn with indignation in their youth. These are the very policies that harm black women the most, while them and their progeny were shielded from the rigours of black life in the townships.

These questions must not be asked for cheap populist point scoring but to uncover the ideological failures and shortcomings of the liberation movement in the ANC and outside the ANC with the black left (Black Consciousness Movement and PAC) which the Codesa negotiations frustrated to such an extent that they chose to opt out.

If, as Thomas Sankara said, “women hold the other half of the sky”, it is logical to claim that Winnie and her comrades held a disproportionately larger chunk of the sky while the likes of her former husband took all the glory in an unfair and sexist reinforcing manner.

We thank you for all the sacrifices Mam’uNomzamo Madikizela. Lala ngoxolo mama wesizwe.

2 April 2018


Ncedisa Mpemnyama
(BLF-Western Cape Chairperson)
Cell: 073 110 0334

View this “excerpt” here from the documentary “The Free Mandela Campaign” which indicates amongst other things Comrade Winnie’s unwavering commitment towards the liberation of black people.


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