As tributes continue to pour in for the late struggle icon, Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, those who were close to her have described this liberation fighter, as a brilliant, generous and a kind mother.
From the humble beginnings of Bizana in the Eastern Cape, to a global icon. People in Qunu knew Mama Winnie as a politician and mother.
Her connection to Qunu was through her marriage to the late statesman Nelson Mandela. The Madiba clan says she was true to the character of a decent wife.
“She was so respectful. She always wore long dresses, always had a doek on her head. She respected the family,” says Evelyn Mandela.
She mourned her former husband, though they were no longer married. The people of Qunu acknowledged the respect she displayed to her wedding vows.
‘‘She never questioned any instruction by men who are leaders of this family. She always respected what they told her to do and made sure that she kept all the rules of being a decent and respected rural woman,” says Evelyn.
Mandela family neighbour Luccritia Ngcebetshana says; ”She would take her mother in law to Johannesburg when she came back she would have all these nice things that she has bought her. She was a true giver.”
In Mpumalanga, the Congress of Traditional Leaders of South Africa, Contralesa, also remembered Madikizela-Mandela as a true leader, who also fought for the recognition of traditional leaders. She served as Contralesa’s treasurer for seven years, from 1989 to 1995.
Contralesa’s Kgoshi Lamarck Mokoena says he personally worked with Winnie Madikizela-Mandela for many years in Contralesa and in Parliament. “She was a leader who did a lot in making sure that traditional leaders are recognized in the role they play in society.”
Mokoena cautioned against those who are now singing praises for Mama Winnie when they made sure that in the past she was isolated. Her friend and comrade Dr Brigalia Bam recalled her fond memories of a young Nomzamo Madikizela-Mandela.
She befriended her in the 50s at Jan Hofmeyr School of Social Work in Johannesburg. She has described her as brilliant, generous and kind. Madikizela Mandela’s contribution in the liberation struggle has been documented by various film-makers.
Renowned film-producer Anant Singh reflected on his personal encounters with the late Mama Winnie. Singh spent a lot of time with her when producing the film titled: Mandela: Long Walk To Freedom in 2013 . They became close friends for over thirty years, after being introduced to each other by late the ANC heavyweight Fatima Meer.
“When I started the movie Mandela: Long Walk To Freedom based on Madiba’s book, it was a long journey but she was always very supportive but at the same time slightly apprehensive because as a film-maker, Madiba said show me for my weaknesses and my strengths and I asked her to do the same and she said ok, ‘I trust you’.”
He says Madikizela- Mandela was a unique individual with a strong presence and her character required a special actress. However, one of the darkest moments in Mama Winnie’s marriage must surely have been her divorce from former President Mandela.
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