Later in the afternoon of Saturday, 14 April 2018, a date which will forever be etched in the hearts and minds of South Africans, Africans and the rest of the globe, the heavens christened the Johannesburg soil to welcome the physical remains of our dearly departed mother, Mama Nomzamo Zanyiwe Winifred ‘Winnie’ Madikizela-Mandela. Earlier that morning she left her home in Soweto, forever, accompanied by millions who had been mourning her death since her passing, to lie in state at the famous Orlando stadium a few kilometers from where she lived. As some speakers have already said, she was a president we never had. Thus, such a stately and graceful sending off was the least we could do for her before she was buried. It was the least the South African government could do to show appreciation one last time to one who was both inspirational and impressive. To have the South African military march in honour of this enormous titan of the human struggle was important to try and atone for the horror and humiliation Mam’ Nomzamo suffered when she was alive. In the words of the ancients, ‘Gone go le matshwanedi.’
Delivering his eulogy last week on Wednesday, 11 April 2018, Deputy President David Mabuza speaking on behalf of the people of South Africa, reminded the world that Nomzamo Zanyiwe Winifred ‘Winnie’ Madikizela-Mandela was loved by her people, within and without the borders of the country of her birth. Like a mason with a chisel, the Deputy President carved in words our privilege to have called one so regal and consistent a stalwart of our struggle. Speaking of the generations that will come later, the proud descendants of Mama Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, who will no doubt be jealous of us for having lived in the same era as this giant, breathed the same air she did and walked where she treaded, he observed thus: ‘…only newborn babies will open our eyes to the true wonder and fortune of our generation. They will say blessed are we who in our lifetime had a fine-looking African goddess living in our midst. Unborn babies will envy us for our blessing of having seen, touched, and felt the love of you Nomzamo we sizwe.’
However, it was these words of comfort that solidified our unique opportunity, clinching the message of the Deputy President’s eulogy, unequivocally declaring to the world that Nomzamo Zanyiwe Winifred ‘Winnie’ Madikizela-Mandela was a core part of us, and we a core part of her. He said: ‘Nomzamo wethu. Nomzamo wabantu…You are the ancient gift of our ancestors and the undying promise of our children.’ Here we are, two days later since the burial of Mama Winnie – Nomzamo wethu – alone and our hearts still heavy with grief, for it is beginning to dawn on us that indeed, the tree under whose shade we could always count on to find refuge has fallen, and not to rise again. Nomzamo is gone. Now that she is gone, the shield that protected us from racist bullies and tyrants, our eyes are darting aimlessly to see if we can find one who can love and care for us like her. Even if we do find someone, a surrogate mother or father, we know deep in our hearts that their warmth and compassion could never be compared with that of Mama Winnie.
It is true, we were blessed to have had Mama Nomzamo Zanyiwe Winifred ‘Winnie’ Madikizela-Mandela to have walked in our midst. We were blessed to have had Mama Winnie challenge the racist and merciless apartheid regime on our behalf, for she loved us so. We were truly blessed to have such a giant of history to call South Africa and Africa her home. Thus, we should always be thankful to the gods for blessing us with such a powerful figure, a tour de force – Nomzamo we sizwe.
When writers finally allow their minds the freedom to imagine and their pens liberty to ink truth on paper, the books of history will register Saturday, 26 September 1936, as no ordinary date because a daughter destined for the global throne was born into the family of Columbus and Gertrude Madikizela – a champion of the oppressed, a leader of the faithless and supreme queen of the conquered. As time goes on, poets and musicians will compose verses and songs devoted to the legacy of Mama Winnie, for it was within her where courage and strength of human willpower resided.
Mama Winnie meant so much to us, assuming the definition of the beautiful African name – Mmasechaba – that we became selfish and greedy, forgetting that she had children of her own. Her two daughters, Zenani and Zindziswa, who had the misfortune of having of witnessing their mother being harassed by the apartheid government. They would also become helpless spectators as their mother was carefully ostracised by her own liberation movement – the African National Congress – she who had faced the racist regime of the past and challenged them to do their worst. Zenani is 59 and Zindzi will celebrate her 58th birthday anniversary later this year. Despite the hardships they faced growing up, with a mother banished to a rural town in the Free State and their father serving a life sentence in Robben Island, they now serve their country as ambassadors of Argentina and Denmark. They are also mothers to children – the grandchildren and great-grandchildren of Mama Winnie. While external forces might have threatened the legacy of Nomzamo Zanyiwe Winifred ‘Winnie’ Madikizela-Mandela, in her house her name would certainly multiply, as it has since multiplied around the globe.
One would hope that if we are to begin to honour the legacy and memory of this great colossus of our struggle, the South African government would first respond to calls to rename the Cape Town International Airport to Winnie Madikizela-Mandela International Airport. By attaching such a magnetic name to one of the busiest airports in the country, if not the continent, boys and girls across the lands would know that one does not have to grow up in Sandton or Camps Bay to become a success. To name an international airport in the cradle of racism after one who was its fiercest opponent would go a long way in a sending a clear message – even in death, like in life, Nomzamo Zanyiwe Winifred ‘Winnie’ Madikizela-Mandela is our warrior queen. Finally, once again we convey our deepest and sincere condolences to the Madikizela and Mandela families. May the soul of this fearless, phenomenal and amazing woman rest in peace. We dedicate her glorious name – Winnie Madikizela- Mandela – to the ages. Kgotsong!