Crusader Staff Report
After a lifetime of crusading for equality and justice, Winnie Madikizela-Mandela will be honored with a state funeral on April 14 at Orlando Stadium in Soweto, South Africa, according to South African president Cyril Ramaphosa. A memorial service will be held on April 11.
Madikizela-Mandela died on Mon- day, April 2, four years after her former husband, Nelson Mandela. Known as “The Mother of the Nation,” Madikizela-Mandela was 81.
Madikizela-Mandela’s spokesman, Victor Dlamini said in a statement that she died “after a long illness, for which she had been in and out of hospital since the start of the year.” Over the last year, the South African Broadcast Corporation said Madikizela-Mandela had been treated for diabetes and underwent major surgeries as her health began failing.
Dr. Benjamin F. Chavis Jr., president the National Newspapers Publishers Association offered condolences on behalf of the Black organization.
“The NNPA extends heartfelt condolences to the family of Winnie Mandela whose irrepressible freedom-fighting spirit lives on in the hearts and souls of millions of people throughout the world who cry out for freedom,” Chavis said.
The NAACP on Tuesday, April 3 released a statement in response to Madikizela-Mandela’s death.
“Ms. Madikizela-Mandela dedicated her life to the mission for which the NAACP stands: justice and equality for all peoples of the African Diaspora,” said Derrick Johnson, NAACP President and CEO. “Over the course of a long career in the public eye, Ms. Madikizela-Mandela used her platform to advance human rights in South Africa. Along with her former husband, Nelson, Ms. Madikizela-Mandela became a globally-recognized representative of the anti-apartheid struggle. We are saddened by her passing but deeply grateful for the contributions she made in her lifetime.”
Madikizela-Mandela for decades was an anti-apartheid champion in South Africa. According to the Nelson Mandela Foundation, she was born the fourth of eight children on Sept. 26, 1936, although earlier accounts gave the year as 1934. Her father, Columbus, was a senior official in the Transkei. Madikizela-Mandela’s mother Gertrude, was a teacher who reportedly died when Winnie was eight.
Her official name was Nomzamo Winifred Zanyiwe Madikizela. Her family was of noble blood from the Xhosa-speaking Pondo tribe in Transkei. Her first name, Nomza-mo, means “she who must endure trials.”
Madikizela-Mandela attended a Methodist mission school and then the Hofmeyr School of Social Work in Johannesburg. She turned down a scholarship in the United States, preferring to remain in South Africa as the first Black social worker at the Baragwanath hospital in Soweto.
According to Nelson Mandela’s autobiography, “Long Walk to Freedom,” he saw his future wife waiting at a bus stop. Several weeks later he saw Madikizela-Mandela again while visiting a friend’s office. The two were married on June 14, 1958.
In 1964, Mandela was sentenced to prison on charges for treason. While her husband spent 27 years in the Robben Island penal settlement, off Cape Town, Madikizela-Mandela was not allowed to work, socialize, move freely or be quoted in the South African news media, even as she raised their two daughters, Zenani and Zindziswa. Her visits to Mandela were scant and she was never allowed any physical contact with her husband. With heavy restrictions placed upon her, Madikizela-Mandela was regarded as the “mother of the nation.” Privately, the restrictions caused Madikizela-Mandela to drink heavily.
In May 1969, five years after her husband was imprisoned, Madikizela-Mandela was arrested and jailed for 17 months, where she was beaten and tortured. Madikizela-Mandela was also imprisoned for five months without trial. She was then banished to a bleak township near the conservative, predominately white town of Brandfort, in the Orange Free State. She was often visited by diplomats, journalists and prominent dignitaries.
Madikizela-Mandela drew respect and admiration as a defiant leader. She used phones designated ‘white-only’ and ate at some of South Africa’s segregated restaurants.
Nelson Mandela was released from prison in February 1990. His decades of suffering earned him global admiration and fame. As a couple, the two seemed like a powerful team crusading against racism and poverty.
While Madikizela-Mandela was known to the world as the wife of Nelson Mandela, she was a proud, liberated woman who preferred to maintain a separate identity of her own.
“I am not Mandela’s product,” she said, according to an article in the New York Times. “I am the product of the masses of my country and the product of my enemy” — references to South Africa’s white rulers under apartheid and to her burning hatred of them, rooted in her own years of mistreatment, incarceration and banishment.
In 1991, Madikizela-Mandela was convicted and sentenced to six years in prison for ordering the kidnapping of four youths in 1988, in Soweto. The body of one, a 14-year-old was found with his throat cut. Madikizela-Mandela’s chief bodyguard was convicted of murder. Madikizela-Mandela appealed her conviction to South Africa’s highest appeals court, which reduced her punishment to fines and a suspended one-year term.
In 1992, Madikizela-Mandela’s 34-year marriage to Nelson Mandela ended in divorce. In 1998, Mandela married his third wife, Graça Machel, the widow of the former Mozambican president Samora Machel. Both attended Nelson Mandela’s highly publicized funeral in 2013.
In 2016, the government of President Jacob G. Zuma bestowed on Madikizela-Mandela one of the country’s highest honors: the Order of Luthuli, for her contributions to the struggle for democracy.