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Madikizela-Mandela: A symbol of suffering

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Associated Press

JOHANNESBURG

Even the name given to Winnie Madikizela-Mandela at birth – Nomzamo, “one who undergoes trials” – foretold a life of struggle.

During her nearly 38-year marriage to Nelson Mandela, she fought for black majority rule even as she vowed to escape the shadow of the great man.

And although many South Africans called her the “Mother of the Nation,” she would become engulfed in criminal convictions and scandals.

Madikizela-Mandela died Monday in a Johannesburg hospital at the age of 81 after a long illness, her family announced. She will be honored with a state funeral on April 14, President Cyril Ramaphosa said Monday evening after paying a condolence visit to Madikizela-Mandela’s home in Johannesburg’s Soweto township.

Over the years, Madikizela-Mandela became a symbol of the suffering caused by South Africa’s system of white minority rule known as apartheid and became a force against it, ultimately serving as a member of parliament.

She and her husband began a family before Nelson Mandela went underground and then was imprisoned for more than a quarter-century. Left with two young daughters, Madikizela-Mandela was persecuted by police and banished to a remote town where neighbors were forbidden to speak with her.

As Nelson Mandela emerged from 27 years in prison seeking reconciliation and forgiveness, Winnie Madikizela-Mandela wanted the perpetrators of apartheid punished.

“What brutalized me so much was that I knew what it is to hate,” she once said in a South African television interview.

Madikizela-Mandela’s story grabbed the imagination of people around the world. It’s been told in books as well as the Hollywood movie “Winnie,” starring Oscar-winning actress and singer Jennifer Hudson.