Defend Truth


Winnie Mandela: the Zeitgeist of Young Women


Busani Ngcaweni is Director-General of the National School of Government, South Africa.

The memory of Mama Winnie Madikizela-Mandela is safely engraved in our hearts. After all, they say memory is the struggle against forgetting.

In these days of national mourning, respecting the passing of Mama Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, illuminating is the iconography of a defiant young woman. She who defies all forms of chauvinism. She refuses to be defined by anything other than her worth, her humanity, character and intellect.

She defies crime and claims her space and time. She yearns for and fights for freedom. She is freedom.

In her embrace of history and radiant vision of the future, she defies her own accumulated disabilities of poverty.

I hear her sing “senzeni na…

I hear her cry in song, “mabayeke umhlaba wethu…

Yesterday I saw her read “the land is ours” and “the native life in South Africa”.

She asserts herself in being and deeds; beautiful Nubian sister, shaking the colonial centre to reclaim her ontological density.

Today she throws stones demanding free education, tomorrow we meet her as innovator and global leader.

She doesn’t want pity or handouts.

She wants free, quality and decolonised education.

She smells economic freedom in her lifetime.

She wears a doek in celebration, not in submission. She wears it also to annoy and defy those who despise the ways of her people.

She is freedom. She is Nomzamo. She knows Nomzamo was also Zanyiwe.

She says, if Winnie, if our Zanyiwe, if our mother of freedom was on trial till the end, she will get justice for her children.

She prays for the freedom of the people of Palestine and Western Sahara; bound together by the ancient bonds of human solidarity.

These are the children of Winnie Madikizela-Mandela. They are her. She lives in them. She long multiplied.

She uses defiance as a negation of oppression and affirmation of hope about a future free of white supremacy, patriarchy, economic bondage, misogyny, xenophobia, homophobia and all forms of gender-based violence.

She is the fire burning all traces of prejudice and injustice.

She is the spear of Shaka, the shield of Hintsa and the heart of Queen Mantantisi tearing down racial oppression and its legacy.

She is a poet, a prophet, a professor, a philanthropist, a pianist, a pilot, a physicist, a protégée, a protector, a preacher, a politician, a polyglot and most importantly she is people-centric.

Even as history and capitalism pulls her down, she keeps on trying, uyazama, uNomzamo!

Nomzamo, the zeitgeist of the young woman who defy all odds in a hostile political economy.

She is the future. The future she chose. The future we choose today. Through her Winnie Mandela defied death and she multiplied.

Nomzamo lives. She shouts with a clenched fist; gazing at those who could not atone. Defiantly she asserts:

They oppressed us.

They told us how to protest – ‘do it peacefully’. They undermined our culture ‘that’s barbaric’.

Land taken away from us.

Husbands and fathers sent to hostels.

Turning us into labourers.

They chose heroes for us.

They write what is meant to be our history. Now they tell who to mourn and how to grieve. Again they will not succeed.

The memory of Mama Winnie Mandela is safely engraved in our hearts. After all, they say memory is the struggle against forgetting.

We will continue to drink from ever-flowing well of her resilience, of defiance and hope, of triumph.

Phakama Nomzamo phakama. DM


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