Winnie Madikizela-Mandela

Clement Gama08/30/2019
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5min2553

The reason folk are saddened by death is because they are directly affected by the upshot of someone’s demise. But others are what I call fundamental sympathisers, so much that they’re able to put themselves in the shoes of the deceased or loved ones of the late. Regardless of how much they knew the dead person.

They’ll be those whose stomachs flipped and were overcome by a dark heaviness at the news of BOSASA boss Gavin Watson dying in a car accident this week. While others couldn’t give a rat’s ass about his passing because of the alleged corruption he was involved in while alive. And then there’s the rest of us who think Mr. Watson isn’t dead, but somewhere on an island sipping PiƱa Coladas after staging his timely passing.

The fact is, death affects us in different ways and people have their varied methods of grieving. Take for instance how some people would choose to only speak about the good side of a person at the funeral, despite how despicable that person probably was.

But it’s also not a good look bashing a someone who can’t defend themselves, despite overwhelming evidence that they were a vile human being who deserve to rot in hell. It’s better to rather not say anything about the deceased, in public at least. Like former President Thabo Mbeki’s unfavourable comments about Winnie Madikizela-Mandela in the wake of her passing, to which Madikizela-Mandela clearly couldn’t defend.

Forcing yourself into other people’s shoes, especially at the passing of a celebrity or a popular individual only because it’s the latest craze to hashtag RIP XYZ and replace your DP with a photo of the dead person is simply faking the funk. We saw it a few months ago after Nipsey Hussle’s murder, where timelines were littered with condolence messages from individuals whose knowledge of Nipsey is cringe-worthier than a Hlaudi Motsoeneng interview. Posing as a genuine sympathiser defeats the point of it all.

Lacking the societal emotional response seems to make one look like a bad person. It would obviously be wicked to rejoice at someone’s death, but the passing of a person you didn’t particularly get along with often leaves you questioning whether you’re an evil person or not.

A fella I went to Primary and High School with died in a horrific car crash a few years ago. He was the rambunctious, conceited typa dude. I didn’t like the guy. But learning of his accident had me interrogating myself. I thought ‘gee, what an awful way to go…but it is what it is.’ I didn’t have much remorse really, mainly because his death doesn’t erase the douchebag he was and for the mere fact that his passing has no impact on me. But I can’t imagine the pain it left on his loved ones, and sadly am not allowing myself to step in their shoes.

The psychological reaction that occurs in response to perceived attack or threat to our survival is ‘the fight or flight’ response. But when death occurs in our lives, there are a myriad emotional responses and ways of grieving, it seems.


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6min1571

TRENDS in the South African socio-political space, always put a spotlight on racial tension among the country’s citizens. Bigots crept out their crevices, following news that William Nicole’s set to be renamed after Winnie Madikizela-Mandela.

“William Nicole opposed Bantu Education, translated the Bible into isiZulu and said blacks must go to school in their first language. Winnie put burning tyres around people’s necks. Renaming the road from him to that thing shows exactly what’s wrong with SA,” said Digibyte Africa on Twitter.

It’s one thing to disagree with a name change, but insulting the late and underrated Madikizela-Mandela and referring to her as ‘that thing’ is the stuff of extremists who were intimidated by the ANC stalwart. Not to suggest that there aren’t Africans who don’t endorse the name change, I’m just irked by the argument presented by most Caucasians who are incessantly infatuated with the radical Madikizela-Mandela.

One Gregory Harington went on to suggest that Madikizela-Mandela was the one who popularised necklacing during apartheid. “Winnie Mandela encouraged the practice of necklacing. I don’t know the name of anyone else who did. Her victims are silent,” said Harington. His reasoning reminded me of Desmond Tutu’s questioning of Madikizela-Mandela during the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. “I was the only one in the ANC who was taken to the TRC by her own government,” said Madikizela-Mandela in a documentary.

Whether or not Madikizela-Mandela did popularise necklacing, why are her activities during the struggle still being questioned, over 20 years into democracy and months after her burial? A number of people were forced into violence during apartheid as a result of what the police and government was doing to black people, daily. Black men and women who are in parliament today or who are sitting cosy somewhere enjoying retirement, committed inhumane crimes in the name of furthering the struggle against an unjust system. Madikizela-Mandela kept the movement active on the ground while most of today’s celebrated politicians were in prison, exile or in diapers.

In an August Green song (on their NPR desk performance) female rapper Maimouna Youssef said being a female is like being black twice and even in her grave, Mam’Winnie remains a victim of the deadly tag-team of patriarchy and racism. Over 10 years ago the Johannesburg International Airport was changed to OR Tambo International and it too, received backlash from a number of people who were still in pains that the airport was no longer named Jan Smuts (the ANC insisted on changing the airport name when it came into power in 1994). But people’s reaction then, doesn’t match the current outraged over the suggestion of renaming a mere road after Madikizela-Mandela.

Complaints from white people about this come off as petty. Their lack of understanding that the country needs to be inclusive of everyone while simultaneously acknowledging that black people are the majority and everything in the country needs to reflect this. “White God is not recognised…please sit down with your white supremacy tendencies. William Nicole Road is coming to an end, making way to the dawn of Winnie Madikizela-Mandela Road/Street/Avenue…let it sink in,” C-Ya Mshengu Tweeted.

A number of black people welcomed the idea of the name change, while others preferred to focus their energies on the R17 per litre petrol price hike which has rocketed Mzansi this week. “I thought I would be seeing a plan to stop this petrol increase trending, instead I see changing name like William Nicole etc. When are we attending to petrol mara…”tweeted Docmedia Mlambo.



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