3 April 2018 by Cliffe Dekker Hofmeyr

We mourn the passing of Ma'm Winnie

As we mourn the loss of another South African heroine, Ma’m Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, we ought to consider what she has meant to all of us South Africans, and how her memory may serve to embolden and enrich the pursuit of a better life for all - fundamentally – the pursuit of social justice, in our country.

As arguably the most famous black revolutionary, woman and mother in our country, her resistance, perseverance, courage, rage and refusal to submit notwithstanding; abuse, torment, incarceration, banishment and vilification over nearly 6 decades is, likely, unequalled in our time.  Her sacrifices came at an unquestionable personal cost to herself, her daughters and to Madiba. And still, she knew that what she stood for and represented was clung to by a vast multitude of South Africans, young and old and (still) desperately impoverished and as it still is to this day. 

It is she who, invented and represented what it means to be truly hopeful. Hers was not the kind of hope that did not take hard work, personal commitment and agency, the acceptance of mortal risk and sacrifice, in pursuit of the common good.   Indeed, for her, hope was not the ‘thin’ caricatured kind that we South Africans refer to so glibly currently as we emerge from a dark period in our youthful democracy. She was indeed real in a way that many of us could never hope to be or muster the kind of courage it took to be such. And still she was gracious, even if graciously defiant and, even, to her own organization.  Only a deeply embedded patriarchal narrative would stoop to define her as, “a powerful but flawed icon of the struggle…”. Ma’m Winnie was a revolutionary who fought tirelessly and for decades for the liberation of all of us – full stop! Let’s start by remembering that!

As Ma’m Winnie joins the pantheon of South African heroines, including; Sara Baartman, Emily Hobhouse, Lilian Ngoyi, Sarah Raal, Albertina Sisulu, Helen Joseph,  Ruth First, Jeanette Schoon, Cissie Gool, Charlotte Maxeke, Antjie Krog, Dulcie September, Helen Kies, Rahima Moosa, Miriam Makeba and Fezekile Ntsukela Kuzwayo (“Khwezi”), we salute her and send heartfelt condolences to her daughters and the extended Madikizela-Mandela family.

Hamba Kahle Mbokodo.

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