Without Winnie would we be celebrating the 20th anniversary of Nelson Mandela’s freedom? Winnie Mandela: The Forgotten Hero & Freedom Fighter!

South Africa Mandela AnniversaryI decided to write this piece after seeing this picture, shot for the Associated Press by Schalk van Zuydam, of Winnie Mandela sadly looking on as her ex-husband, Nelson Mandela, interacts in unison with his new wife, Graca Machel. This picture saddens me dearly as I recall an interview with a vibrant Winnie Mandela on the show “Conversations with Felicia” on the Africa Channel . She was asked about her love life & she responded by saying she belongs to the people & has too much work to be done for the people to have time to feel sad about certain things like not having a love life. This is clearly not true just by looking at this picture. There are so many strong, powerful, loving women who have met the fate of Winnie Mandela. The women who fought by their husband’s side for evolutions in revolution, the women who worked 2-3 jobs, held up the home front while putting their own dreams aside in order to help their husbands/significant others attain their dreams of becoming doctors, lawyers, actors, musicians, politicians etc.; the women who ended up being left alone after the dream & glory was attained, with sometimes not even a mere thank you!

This picture was taken at an event celebrating the 20th anniversary of Nelson Mandela’s freedom as a political prisoner, but the world forgot to celebrate the woman who kept his story & fight alive for the world to take notice. The world forgot to celebrate the woman who was also a political prisoner, stigmatized, antagonized & brutalized along side of Nelson Mandela, the woman who took care of & protected their children while making sure that her husband had a home to come to after attaining the freedom which she diligently & courageously fought for him to attain, the woman who stood by his side & fought with him to bring an end to apartheid along with becoming president, the woman who even in her heartache sits by his side to honor him- knowing that she must continue the fight for freedom that was started in their togetherness of love & desire to uplift & to bring freedom to their people, without the man she once leaned on & counted on in the struggle. Winnie Mandela is left with the heartache knowing that she can no longer share the bond of love with the man who has become the face & the symbol of the struggle, while her fight & insurmountable contributions for freedom continue to fall by the waist side & to be seemingly forgotten as a brief reference to the full Nelson Mandela story. Would we be celebrating the 20th year anniversary of Winnie’s “Madiba” AKA Nelson Mandela’s freedom without the fight & voice of Winnie Mandela? His celebration of freedom is just as much hers as it is his & maybe even more hers because she withstood all the adversity & consequences of the fight to attain his freedom while often forsaking her own.

I completely understand why Winnie Mandela chose to not lead the 500-meter march from the former Victor Verster prison in Paarl, Western Cape, which was to recreate the walk she took with her ex-husband after he was released from prison. She declined by just saying it was just too exhaustive for her. This walk holds so much history & memories that one can see how & why it would not only be physically but also mentally exhausting. Winnie Mandela has done her best in giving all of herself toward the people’s work, so it is time to grant her her just due recognition & allow her to be open to the love & comfort that she also deserves.

Where will President Obama be without Michelle? Where would Martin Luther King Jr. have been without Coretta? Where would Kwame Nkrumah have been without Fathia? Where would Malcolm X have been without Betty? The only difference in the world continuing to celebrate these great women is that they stayed married to their husbands & therefore will forever be celebrated within the full stories of their husbands. Once you become the ex-wife and a new woman becomes the wife, does that erase all of your accomplishments & contributions to the success & popularity of the man who is praised by the world? For Winnie Mandela did seems to be sadly the case, which makes me think this is why women like Hillary Clinton stay in marriages even after being done wrong, whereas many other women would have left. Would Hillary Clinton have had the opportunity to be heralded the way she was, as the first woman (after Shirley Chisholm) to have come so close to winning the US presidency had she chosen to divorce Bill Clinton? Would we have let all of her accomplishments and contributions to Bill Clinton being praised on the world stage fall by the waist side & forgotten had she divorced him & had he gotten a new wife? We do not hear very much about French President Sarkozy’s ex-wife Cécilia and all of her accomplishments & contributions toward getting him to the presidency. After choosing to get a divorce, she basically became a pariah in her own country just as Winnie Mandela was in the ridicule & scandalous allegations against her after her divorce from Nelson Mandela.

I was betrayed by close friends. I don’t hold it against them. Such is human nature. I understand that the gold of the French Republic could tempt more than one…At the end of the day I have become more serene. I kept 70 per cent of my friends. Real friendships came to the fore. I left behind those who hurt me.” Cécilia Sarkozy AKA Cécilia Attias

Unlike Winnie Mandela , Cécilia Attias at least had the opportunity to hold the title of first lady, which she had worked for as the intelligent mouthpiece & pretty face with a more soothing temperament that made her husband more palatable to the French public. Unlike Winnie Mandela, Cécilia Attias recognized that being a strong, powerful woman does not leave you without the need and capacity to make & take time to be loved & to take comfort in a man’s hands because it is nature & nurture’s way to need the comfort of love, which no amount of dedication to nor accomplishment in one’s life’s work can bring or replace.

Standing by your man should never be the consumption & definition of any woman because a partnership should be defined by reciprocity. As much as we may fantasize of love that lasts forever, people change & love fades, so we must be able to let go for the purpose of redefinition, renewal, new love & new life. To all my strong, powerful & loving women, never believe that you do not have time nor need the love & comfort of a man or woman-depending on your personal preference- because that love & comfort is often the solace & energy one needs the most to do the work of the people & to live your best life! To  Mama Winnie, I say “Amanza” because you are the woman who truly personifies & made me understand the word for Freedom!

This & Every Black History & Women’s History month let’s shout “Amanza” in honor & homage to Winnie Mandela -A true Fighter for Freedom!

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  • Thabitha Onyame Adom

    February 22, 2010 at 1:31 pm

    Thank you Mister author of this article.

    Would you kindly tell Mama Winnie that we share her pain. Because of her painful divorce from Mr.Mandela, her trials, insults and all sorts of humiliations worldwide, persecutions… May the joy of the Lord be her strength, the love and the divine presence of the Lord be with her.

    May God grant her peace, joy and many many years again, and above all, may the Holy Spirit help her dwell in Jesus all the days of her life, and grant her a very warm welcome, a very big crown and palace in His kingdom. These are things no-one can take from her. Not Even Mrs Machel.

    We will continue to pray for Mama Winnie. Inspite of all that they say about her, we love her. Our wish has always be to see her with Mr. Mandela. Our wish not God’s. One thing I know, noboy can separate her from the steadfast love of the Lord. We will alway be with Mama Winnie although we are not South Africans.

    May the Almighty God bless abundantly Mama Winnie and her offsprings. May all of them worship the God, the unique creator of heaven and earth and pray that they will not belong to any secret society but belong to Jesus-Christ.

    We wish her all the best.

  • xxx dvd rental

    November 13, 2011 at 8:06 am

    I cannot thank you that you have produce what a nice looking write-up that you’ve develop here, I thank you for keeping it up. Getting excited about seeing more of this in the coming future, thanks

  • nigger

    November 23, 2012 at 8:44 am

    what about Mandela and his lovers RUTH MOMPATI,LILIAN NGOYI DOLLY RATHEBE e.t.c-I RESPECTED Mandela but after what he did to Winnie, I hate him and his wife.

  • Dada Africa

    April 5, 2013 at 3:17 pm

    I concurr with you on Winnie’s struggle for liberation of South Africa. In fact, without her contribution, we probably would not be celebrating Mandela’s accomplishments. So I gatto give her credit for that. Unfortunately, Winnie fell her own star. Could you, perhaps enlighten us with the same light, why Mandela had to divorce Winnie?

    All those women you mentioned did not, to my knowledge engage in some of the actions Winnie did, with murder of child(ren) like Stompie Seipei. But South Africa forgave her for that, and frankly speaking, when she confessed and apologized, I think for a woman who had done so much for South Africa it was not such a bad idea to free her.

    As far as my reading goes, Mandela really wanted to make it work with Winnie. But how can a man keep a wife who is so out of control to the point of sleeping with other men even when he begged her not to do so? What should Mandela have done? Do you recognize the pain Mandela had to go through to make that decision? The pain of a spouse who is not changing positively, no longer recognizing you for a spouse, the constant humiliation and embarrassment in public. Above all, she no longer loved Nelson. If she did, she would not be doing the things that she did that ended up in divorce.

    I think Mandela respects her as a freedom hero. But the love? He does not owe her. He did love her to a point where it became too painful in the glare of the public. And for and African man, he did just what he had to do, as painful as it was, to let go of a woman who had once meant the world to him. She never tried to save the marriage, the love that they shared.

    We cannot blame Nelson Mandela. He had to bear the pain of baring the most intimate details of his relationship with his wife, which were plastered across the newspapers and discussed everywhere. Mandela testified that Winnie never entered their bedroom while he was awake. Now you tell me whether there was a marriage there or not.

    He needed someone to love, someone to cherish and care for each other. There was no sign that Winnie was ever returning. And honeslty had he not divorced her probably things never would have gotten better. He needed someone calm, collected and who appreciated him. That’s where Graca Machel comes in.

    In Africa, we have a saying that goes, “the pot breaks at the door way.” This saying relates to a woman who went down the valley to fetch water, and she did get the water, struggled with bringing the water from down the valley, and she sure got home with the water. Unfortunately, while getting the pot down, she loses caution, it falls off her head, breaking down into pieces, spilling all the water on the floor. We also have a swahili saying that goes, “maji yakimwagika hayazoleki.” Meaning once the water spills down you cant recollect it back …. and be able to use it, especially on the rich African gound. That is the story of Winnie Mandela.

    As for Winnie’s loneliness and loveless life, we cannot blame Mandela. He is married to Graca and he prefers not to be polygamous. There should have been another potential male to take on WInnie and love her. and she can move on. As such, we should be sad that she has not found someone to love her, but not angry with Nelson Mandela or his wife Graca for that matter.

  • nigger

    April 9, 2013 at 12:49 pm

    to be honest i think mandela shud have forgiven winnie considering what she went thru for his heroism. Besides
    …she encountered crisis in her private life coz to mandela politics came first. This is the woman who went out and fought for mandela and carried his kids for nine months and raised them alone. Does this mean nothing compared to sexual precadillos? Why are people always on winnie and stompie yet thousands of people died painfully in the hands of boers, steve biko’s killer suffers no fate of winnie. Was the prime minister who ordered winnie’s arrests punished? The women i mentioned may have killed nobody but from what i read they had an affair with mandela which justifies that mandela was not clean enough not to forgive winnie. sure winnie loves mandela.


  • lady4rmlesotho

    May 13, 2013 at 12:28 pm

    having to go out there and shout to the world that there was a man inprisoned for people’s freedoms…i think graca is taking the honor she does’nt deserve.winnie was mandela’s rock in prison,his inner most strength.without her,there was a high possibility of languishing in prison.the least graca could have done was to merge the two through forgiveness.everybody deserves a second chance.

  • Kenyan

    June 30, 2013 at 3:37 am

    I second dada Africa. Clearly, Winnie fought for Mandela freedom. But the plain truth is that she never wanted a marital relationship after his release. Do some research. It is not that Mandela did not want to forgive Winnie. The truth was that she never wanted him after his release. Hence the divorce.

  • nigger

    July 30, 2013 at 2:26 pm

    He divorced her on grounds of her adultery! but he has too many illegitimate children!

  • nigger

    July 31, 2013 at 8:47 am

    Winnie, le go, it is clear that you no longer fit in Madiba’s world, sorry that you wasted too much energy keeping his name alive. He loves Graca now.

  • Concerned

    November 14, 2013 at 1:29 pm

    Leaders or Gods?
    Jan 23, 2012 | William Mpofu | 52 comments
    THE president died laughing. Even as the angry young soldier broke from the parade shouting profanities and pumping bullets into his heart, he warned: “Don’t do anything silly my son!”

    Africans turn their politicians into deities, who then believe they are untouchable

    And then he was dead. A pile of broken bones and a porridge of bloody flesh. Bleeding evidence of a vengeful assassination.

    Until that morning in October 1981 when he was killed, Anwar Sadat, the third president of Egypt, believed what his loyal supporters told him, that he was “The last Pharaoh”.

    As the last of the Pharaohs, he believed he was “a brother to the moon and a cousin to the sun”.

    He dismissed warnings of his impending kamikaze-type killing by Al-Jihadist militants with the words: “Egyptians are my children; they will not harm their father.”

    So blind to danger and common wisdom was Sadat, he believed he was above humanity.

    Sadat’s tragic story might sound like Egyptian folklore, but it is a tale of how in Africa we elevate our political leaders to the status of saints, living legends and gods.

    With sycophantic flattery and hyperbolic praises, we transform otherwise promising leaders into human deities that they forget that they are fallible beings who have to account to the electorate and their fellow citizens.

    No wonder Idi Amin the late Ugandan despot believed he was “the last king of Scotland” when in reality he was just busy at work, dragging a promising African country down, dancing and laughing as he did so.

    Among Amin’s flatterers were university professors and journalists.

    Nelson Mandela has been so effectively godified and saintified that his very role in letting apartheid criminals against humanity go scot-free and allowing only political apartheid to go while economic apartheid remained intact has remained unspoken of in public discourse.

    In publishing a revealing book, The Young Mandela, in which Mandela the womaniser and wife beater who did not only work with political legends like Lillian Ngoyi, but also frequently bedded them, stands up.

    Brave journalist David Smith had to justify his courageous narrative as an attempt “to rescue Mandela from the dry pages of history” and present him as flesh and blood.

    It is largely because of the saintification of Mandela that the ANC is embarrassed by Julius Malema’s proposal for the nationalisation of mines and redistribution of wealth.

    Malema’s screams about economic apartheid indirectly point out Mandela’s unfinished assignment of liberating blacks from apartheid.

    South African political debate suffers a severe collapse in that the subject of Mandela having done a poor job remains an area where even the brave among thought leaders fear to venture.

    For all his crimes against humanity and dark record in Zimbabwe, minister Tony Gara once publicly declared that “Mugabe is a true son of God”. Several other ministers and supporters have called Mugabe many biblical titles, from Jesus Christ himself to Moses.

    Sadly, Mugabe himself seems to believe the exaggerations.

    An enterprising sangoma, Rotina Mavhunga, in 2009 took advantage of Mugabe’s superstitious beliefs by claiming the ancestors were sending him pure diesel from under the mountains of Chimanimani.

    She mounted a tank full of the liquid on top of the mountain and connected some tubing which simulated a gush of diesel from under the soil.

    Before the trick was exposed, Mugabe showered her with cars and farming land. While she rots in Mugabe’s jail, she exposed to the world just how deluded Mugabe has become.

    For a man with seven university degrees to be that removed from reality is tragic. Pity the poor Zimbabweans are being led by such a man.

    Other commentators have called this habit of Africans to turn their leaders into gods “the dear leader mentality” or “dear father syndrome”. It has led to many political tragedies and disasters.

    Free from any criticism or censure, Joshua Nkomo of Zimbabwe, believing the title of “Father Zimbabwe” that he was given, exposed his supporters to genocide.

    Nkomo effectively disarmed and disbanded his Zipra armed wing in the name of Zimbabwean unity and nationalism.

    At the same time Mugabe was training an ethnic militia which massacred defenceless civilians in one of Africa’s still unresolved genocides.

    So blinded was Nkomo by his high-sounding name that he could not see Mugabe plotting ethnic cleansing right under his nose.

    Even as his Ujamaa economic and social policies were stripping Tanzania down to poverty from 1976 to 1986 and Julius Nyerere was preaching his infamous thinking that “democracy is a luxury that we cannot afford”, the Tanzanians called him Mwalimu, meaning a wise teacher.

    While it is true that Nyerere was teaching something, it is false that there was any wisdom in it.

    Up to now Tanzania has still not recovered fully from Nyerere’s toxic teachings.

    Clearly, in Africa we mould our leaders into gods through hyperbolic praise singing and sycophantic flattery.

    The weak-minded among them tend to believe the exaggerated praises and turn into impossible tyrants answerable only to themselves.

    The truth dies every time a leader’s mistakes and weaknesses are not criticised.

    We need to invest our support in strong institutions and constitutions that will protect us from the excesses of politicians.

    An opinion piece written by William Mpofu is a media, journalism and public relations consultant.

  • Cosmus

    December 11, 2013 at 6:11 am

    Winnie was and is still a courageous woman. She suffered for her people and without her Mandela wouldn’t have made it. She is a heroine who fought to keep her husband’s name active and forever she will be remembered. Viva Winnie

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