The life of Winnie Madikizela-Mandela

She advocated relentlessly for the rights of black people, women, and for the release of Mandela during his 27-year imprisonment. When global headlines or her critics in South Africa rally against her, it is mostly because of the perception she orchestrated the murder of a teenage boy. She was convicted of ordering the kidnapping of four boys in Soweto, including 14-year-old Stompie Seipei, whose throat was slit by her bodyguard.

Malema encouraged South Africans to defend Madikizela-Mandela against racists who insulted her memory, adding that the country had failed to defend her while she was still alive.

A perspective is essential here.

“When my official home, as Commonwealth secretary general, in London was the first Winnie visited with Nelson on his release – to meet his “anti-apartheid” friends – it was a statement from her of love and gratitude to us all – as she wrote in our visitor’s book”.

Ms Misihairabwi-Mushonga said the memorial service would be attended by an official from the ANC Women’s League.

But Mrs Madikizela-Mandela – an icon of the struggle – also found herself mired in controversy.

It began with her marriage to Nelson Mandela in 1959. Under his presidency, Winnie had been given the minor arts and culture portfolio but allegations of corruption caused her to lose that. The security forces subjected her to constant harassment, detention and a nine-year banishment to a tiny rural town. She will tell you where to get off. She was detained in 1969 under antiterrorism laws, spending 17 months in solitary confinement.

Many are still coming to terms with the liberation hero’s passing. In 1977, she was banned again for give years, and in 1982 for another five years.

Madikizela-Mandela and Machel have always maintained that they have a strong bond, despite a much-publicised dispute over the ownership of Madiba’s Qunu home following his death, and his will, which favoured Machel over his former wife.

Even before they were separated by Nelson Mandela’s long stay in prison, she had become politicised, being jailed for two weeks while pregnant for participating in a women’s protest against apartheid restrictions on blacks. In prisons, she washed out of a toilet bucket.

“We are here to say a spear has fallen and we are here to pick up that spear and continue the struggle for emancipation”, he said. She often would know what had become of her children after the police summarily hauled her from their home, leaving them screaming in fear. But beyond the acrid debates about how she is “seen” or “understood” stands a powerful, iconic, somewhat misunderstood, somewhat flawed figure who had an enormous influence on South African politics.

Intense, intimate surveillance was unending.

“The nation was ill-prepared for her departure and people are grieving very deeply”.

Government scheming did its job. The TRC further cemented the perception of her criminality by making her the only ANC member to appear before the commission and punishing her more than it did the architects and perpetrators of apartheid.

As evidence emerged in the dying years of apartheid of the brutality of her Soweto enforcers, the “Mandela United Football Club” (MUFC), her soubriquet switched from “Mother of the Nation” to “Mugger”.

In mourning South Africa defends Winnie Mandela as a hero