South African long history of apartheid and how it ended can never be complete without the stories of sacrifice of so many. While the sacrifices of some ended them in jail, others remained to fight until the end. Among these is Winnie Mandela.
Winnie madikizela Mandela, like her former late husband, Nelson Mandela have played a significant part in the story of the country. She as well regarded as the first black professional social welfare worker in South Africa, who was engaged in activities that would bring equality and justice for all South Africans.
Winnie was born Nomzamo Winifred Zanyiwe Madikizela on 26th September 1936, in the village of Mbongweni, Bizana, in the Eastern Cape province of South Africa. She was born as the fourth child in a large family of eight children.
Winnie Madikizela began her education with a primary in Bizane, from where she proceeded to Shawbury High School where she matriculated. Winnie gained admission into the Jan Hofmeyr School of Social Work in Johannesburg in 1953, and graduated in 1955. She has also had a Bachelor of Arts in International Relations from University of Witwatersrand.
After her graduation from Jan Hofmeyr, she was awarded scholarship to continue her education in the US, however she rejected it preferring to work in Baragwaneth Hospital in Johannesburg, as a Social welfare worker.
Before Nelson, then and activist and a lawyer met Winnie he was married to his first wife, Evelyn Mase, with whom he had three children. The marriage with Evelyn of over ten years, ended in 1958.
Winnie was in her late twenties, while Nelson was in his late thirties when the two met in 1957 and got married in 1958, after he had divorced Evelyn.
When they met, they were both involved in the African National Congress (ANC). Their marriage produced two daughters; Zenani (born 1959) and Zindzi (born 1960).
As a result of his activism, Nelson Mandela was arrested in 1963 and was jailed for life in 1964. From that point, the couple were separated until his release in 1990. The reunion lasted only two years as they separated in 1992, and finally divorced officially in 1996.
Like most educated and even uneducated South Africans during the apartheid times, Winnie Mandela joined in the struggle against apartheid soon when she was of age. Her involvement got even more serious and critical when she was married to Nelson Mandela.
As a result of her activism, she was arrested at various times by the south African Government Although with little girls to watch over, Winnie didn’t back down, and she was detained, tortured and kept under house arrest at different times. In place of Nelson, she championed the struggle massively.
Her activities got her exiled to the Orange Free State, where she was made to remain in the town of Brandfort. In 1969 she was arrested and kept in solitary confinement for the next eighteen months in Pretoria Central Prison. The arrest was as a result of what was termed terrorist activities.
After her release, Winnie continued with the struggle.
Although her activities including strong opposition of the government of P.W Botha was significant in her being called the Mother of the Nation, she was involved in some controversies.
One of the most notorious of Winnie Mandela’s controversies was her promotion of burning people in the process of liberation of South Africa. This she did in a speech at Munsieville in 1986.
Also, she had a controversial group of young men that served as her bodyguards, forcing others to avoid her in 1988.
Of all her controversies, the most disturbing was her being charged for kidnapping and murder of a 14 year old, Stompie Seipei, who was believed to be a police informant . She was found guilty for kidnapping in 1991.
Among other controversies, she was involved in cases of fraud and theft in 2003. She was however absolved of the crimes as it was held in an appeal that the crime was not done for personal gains. She was however convicted for theft, and given a suspended three years and six months jail term.
In 2011, a Winnie Mandela movie was released. The drama was adapted from Anne Marie du Preez Bezrob’s biography; Winnie Mandela: A Life. The movie which went into her early life to the post apartheid times, and her sacrifice and contributions, was directed by Darrel Roodt.
The movie featured actors such as Jennifer Hudson, who acted as Winnie; Hollywood actor, Terrence Howard, who acted as Nelson Mandela; Wendy Crewson, Elias Koteas, and Justin Strydom.
The movie generated some controversies as the former Nelson Mandela wife was not happy as she was not consulted before the movie was made.
Although rumors have emerged at various times of Winnie mandela’s death, she is still very much alive, with hopefully many more years.