“Winnie Mandela Was Loved and Loathed, But She Earned Her Place in History” – Ralph Mathekga

“Winnie Mandela Was Loved and Loathed, But She Earned Her Place in History” – Ralph Mathekga

The flight into eternal glory of Comrade Winnie Madikizela-Mandela early this week reminds us, especially progressive humanity, of the sacrifice of countless revolutionaries in the struggle and who paid the ultimate price to restore the dignity of humanity, first of the oppressed and second of those who lost their civilization by oppressing and suppressing others.

That she paid her dues well and above the call of duty is an understatement. Winnie was not just an activist in the mold of today’s briefcase toting activists — yes-men and women paying homage to the gods of plunder and false generosity and seeking any and every opportunity to line their pockets.

She was a great revolutionary, steeled in her convictions and fortified with the courage to resist tyranny in all forms. She stood up to the powerful racist and facist apartheid octopus whose tentacles of oppression stretched far beyond the borders of her native South Africa.

She endured not only eight years of enforced exile but also the indignity of prison — 491 days of solitary confinement in subhuman conditions that even denied her the right of access to sanitary napkins during her menstrual periods, such that she would remain covered and soaked in her own menstrual blood for days on end.

When her husband, the revered Nelson Mandela was taken away from the family and locked behind bars, Winnie took up the mantle, never ceasing to challenge the white supremacist apartheid regime. For 27 years she carried in her breast the pain of separation from one she loved so dearly.

In his absence and with great difficulty and amidst trying moments she nurtured and cared for her offspring produced from her union to Nelson Mandela. But as any human she shared the frailties that beset all men from the moment of birth to the time of passing.

Yet her commitment to the cause of freedom for her people remained unshakeable and unyielding to the very end of her sojourn here on earth. And although her husband, Nelson, was celebrated by white supremacists as the great reconciler, she was reviled in equal measure by the very same supremacists who found her commitment to ending apartheid most obnoxious and distasteful.

And for this she would pay an exacting price. Never for once did the apartheid state cease to revile and demonize her and even after the end of apartheid she remained, in the eyes of many white South Africans, a reviled enemy worthy only of loathsome qualities.

And while the world still basks in posthumous glorification of her beloved Nelson, no opportunity is spared to vilify and cast aspersion on her character. Nevertheless in the eyes of her beloved South African people she remains an enduring symbol of resistance to not only white racist domination but also to exploitative monopoly capital that has created poverty traps that continue to subjugate the people of South Africa and relegate them to the role of mere hewers of wood and drawers of water.

But Winnie Madikizela Mandela did not only belong to the nation of South Africa but to all of Africa and even to progressive humanity the world over. In celebrating her life and struggle we also celebrate the life and struggle of our own revolutionaries here at home and in Africa, many of whom have paid the ultimate price for freedom.

In the Congo, for example, crippled by extreme poverty in the midst of rich natural resources and torn apart by strife and dictatorial rule, we can still hear the voice of Patrice Lumumba crying out loud to patriots to unite, put an end to capitalist exploitation and usher in a new beginning for its people.

And even louder do we hear the voices of Thomas Sankara, Kwame Nkrumah, Amilcar Cabral, Edward Wilmot Blyden, Albert Porte especially who reminds us in the words: ”eternal vigilance is the price of liberty”.

In today’s Liberia, we find ourselves disturbingly confronted by purveyors of a new but strange narrative that posits the false view that everything in Liberia was well and fine until the “progressives” came along and that seeking justice for the thousands killed during our civil conflict is akin to opening up old wounds.

Strangely and quite alarmingly, this narrative appears to be taking hold especially if one considers the number of perpetrators of gross human rights abuse holding high positions of trust in government. Patriotic Liberians raising issues of accountability are called radicals, failed progressives, etc., who desire to reignite conflict in the country.

What they fail to realize is that by vilifying those who fought against oppression and tyranny in our beloved country they endorse the very ills that plagued or country and drove it down the path of violent conflict. They forget and much too often the full extent of what it takes to overthrow oppression, especially when the morals and legal force of a bankrupt ruling class is supported by the economic might of players in the national economy such as Firestone, for example, which provided succor to a rebel leader whose bloody footprints were clearly visible throughout the national landscape.

Winnie now belongs to the ages but the memory of her commitment and sacrifice will always remind us that without her courage, commitment, vision and resilience and those of her compatriots like Robert Mangaliso Sobukwe, Steve Biko, Chris Hani, Oliver Tambo, Solomon Mahlangu, Bram Fisher, little Hector Pieterson and others, the obnoxious racist, facist apartheid regime would still today be a facet of daily life in South Africa.


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