On why Cape Town International Airport should be renamed Winnie Madikizela-Mandela International Airport

Ladies and gentlemen of the panel, before I say anything else, let me hasten to say this: rename Cape Town International Airport to Winnie Madikizela-Mandela International Airport. However, I cannot assume that you know the reasons, therefore I will go ahead and provide reasons to justify and defend my case.

In all the physiological makeup of human beings, I find the mind to be the most fascinating and exciting part. If nurtured and properly cared for, the mind can produce majestic art, prestigious architecture and introduce to the world the most remarkable of technological progress. Unfortunately, the opposite is also true. If fed poison that very same mind is capable of planting seeds of hatred, cause terror, wage war and threaten the very core of what it is that makes us human: that which we accurately describe in South Africa as botho or ubuntu.

Born and raised in the village of Mbongweni, outside the small town of Mbizana – the hometown of that other extraordinary African, Kaizana Oliver Reginald Tambo – Zanyiwe Nomzamo Madikizela-Mandela grew up in a hateful country that was hostile to her and her people. This was a country governed by racism and ruled by terror and fear. Despite this poisonous system designed for her to fail, she emerged victorious. Her strong, independent mind never became a playground for those who had declared her an enemy of the state. In the midst of misery and suffering, her mind and spirit remained resolute until the very end.

During the official memorial service of Mama Winnie, in a moving and poetic homage, Deputy President David Mabuza praised the late icon thus: ‘Nomzamo wethu, 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.’

Ladies and gentlemen of the panel, the name Winnie Madikizela-Mandela is not only a sign of resilience, determination and perseverance; this name is a powerful symbol of pride for the people of South Africa and posterity. I understand several names have been proposed to rename the majestic Cape Town International Airport; names of individuals whose contribution to this country can never be ignored or dismissed as insignificant, however, amongst those illustrious names, on this occasion, at this very moment, only one name should be put on the mast: the name of Mama Winnie Madikizela-Mandela.

Additionally, in the light of what appears to be a vile and concerted violence against women of our country, having one of our international airports, particularly one that is based in Cape Town – the brimming pot of racism – renamed after the tour de force that was Zanyiwe Nomzamo Winifred ‘Winnie’ Madikizela-Mandela would send a clear signal to murderers, rapists and misogynists that:

we love our women, be it our mothers, our sisters, our aunts, our daughters, our nieces and our wives or girlfriends

we respect them

we cherish them

and we are very much proud of them

By renaming the Cape Town International Airport to Winnie Madikizela-Mandela International Airport, an official message would be sent to the world that we stand by Mama Winnie’s struggle for a free, equal and democratic South Africa.

Ladies and gentlemen of the panel, I propose that in the year we lost our beloved mother – Mmasechaba – the Cape Town International Airport be changed to Winnie Madikizela-Mandela International Airport. It would be a fitting farewell to one who taught us that a woman can do as much as a man, if not more.

As the Deputy President correctly observed, future generations will be envious of us for having lived in the same era as the late giant of our struggle, but it would be unfair to them and history if we did not capture her greatness in a form of a monument. This is our chance as South Africans, the compatriots of Nomzamo, to show our pride in the legacy of Winnie Madikizela-Mandela. This is our opportunity to assert that we truly appreciate the love that Winnie Madikizela-Mandela had for this country. Please accord her the grace and honour she deserves by renaming the airport in the resplendent Mother City after her.

In his beautiful eulogy to one who was both a warrior and nurturer, Deputy President David Mabuza captured the mood around the country thus: ‘The Mother of the Nation is gone. When she passed on, we heard the skies weeping as if to mirror the emotions felt by the nation and the world. Though gone from the human eye, the black fortress of human dignity cannot be erased from the grieving heart of Africa. Because you were the tender heart of poets and sweet melody of musicians, in a thousand years our children will return here and say, we love you without reservation Winnie Madikizela Mandela. Nomzamo wethu. Nomzamo wabantu…You are the ancient gift of our ancestors and the undying promise of our children.’ Folks, please allow the offspring of our struggle stalwart to return years later to the Winnie Madikizela-Mandela International Airport, to declare without reservation their love for Mama Winnie. Nomzamo wabantu. Nomzamo wethu.

Finally, ladies and gentlemen of the panel, let me take this moment to thank you for granting us the lowly of the masses, the ordinary people of Mama Winnie, an opportunity to do as Batswana say: go latlhela la motlapitsong. I trust that my opinion will be considered. Kgotsong!


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