Winnie Mandela

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9min970

How does one begin to commemorate a giant such as the late Veronica Sobukwe?

A woman whose contribution and selfless sacrifices have been erased and hidden from the public eye, so much so that we know her only as a wife rather than the strong, resilient and fighting activist that she truly was.

Born on July 27 in 1972, Zondeni Veronica Mathe was born in Hlobane (now known as Kwa-Zulu natal).

Her contribution to the liberation struggle began in her youth, where she was at the forefront of championing a labour dispute between nurses and hospital management. At the time she was a trainee nurse at the hospital and due to this strike she was expelled from Lovedale College, the (Fort-hare) ANCYL deployed Veronica to go and deliver a letter to Walter Sisulu informing him of the unhappy nurses and their cries. It was at this time that she and Robert Sobukwe, built a close bond, and in June of 1954 Veronica became Zondeni Veronica Sobukwe as she and Robert Sobukwe got married.

Together Again: Mma Zondeni Veronica and husband Bab’ Robert Sobukwe.

From the days of her youth, it is evident that Veronica cared about people more than she cared about herself. She continued to be the backbone and strength of the community, as she selflessly served and gave hope to the hopeless black community. Like many other unsung heroines, she carried the burden of a fatherless community on her back, she was the embodiment of courage to the women whose husbands were in prison or dead somewhere in South Africa.

Whilst being the strength of the community, she was raising her children, alone as her husband was in prison on Robben Island.

She was consistent in fighting a white-racist apartheid regime, and evidently so when she would challenge the government under the leadership of Voster and his collective, demanding the release of her husband and other prisoners. She wrote endless letters to the offices of the Prime Minister and the Minister of Justice, her letters were not only rejected they were ignored. She fought to keep the name and legacy of Robert Sobukwe alive.

During the TRC in 1997, she again challenged the apartheid regime, questioning the death of her husband. She believed that the government had poisoned his food and as a result caused his untimely passing. She was determined to fight for her husband.

It is heart-breaking that the names of great women such as Veronica, Albertina Sisulu, and Winnie Mandela are erased, that the history books in schools mention them as wives and mothers-that their immense contribution the liberation movement and the liberation of South Africa is downplayed.

Mma Sobukwe never turned a blind eye on the needs of the black people, and selflessly ensured that she did what she could to ensure that they were met.

Today we see her images flooding social media and the media at large, because the society we live in recognizes people when they’ve passed on. If only people could take time to truly get to understand her immense role in the struggle and fall in love with her downplayed legacy. If only young people could take upon the heavy baton she has now left behind.

Mma Sobukwe had to live in the time where she witnessed the freedom she fought for being tainted. Where young people are imprisoned and deprived of an education for fighting for equal and free education, where young girls live in fear of men in their own country and where children still live in fatherless and motherless households.

Mma Sobukwe has been consistently isolated and neglected, from the time her husband was imprisoned, to the time he was announced dead all the way to when she was announced dead, on August 15 2018 at the age of 91.

 

IMBI LENDAWO

The Baton passed over (A letter to Veronica Mathe)

Oh Mama Azania, Imbi Lendawo, when you die they flood your images on social media
but they failed to celebrate you when you were alive, they let your contribution and existence fade into thin air
They ignored your sacrifices
They feared the legacy you were to leave behind, the baton you would pass over to another generation of women

Your life teaches us to be women of courage, of fortitude, of resilience and of strength, to fight fire with fire, to fight fearless. uQinisile mbokodo

Mama Lendawo Imbi, you lived in a time where you witnessed the freedom you fought for bought at the price of gender based violence, and wrapped in patriarchy.
Mama you witnessed the freedom of your people tainted by corruption and self-seeking leaders
Mama you witnessed the black nation dying, the young people imprisoned for fighting for their educational rights, whilst rapists and criminals roam free.
They failed to put in words your immense contribution
The baton young women carry in their hands is heavy, but we will fight patriarchy, mama we will tackle, and champion gender based violence, we will expropriate the land.

May you stir up in us your courage, strength, selfless, compassionate and caring nature, to conquer, to challenge and to shake this world
We will not weep for you, we will ensure your feared legacy continues to shake tectonic plates, we will ensure the history books don’t forget your name.
Qhawekazi, siyaku bonga.- Boitumelo Thage

 


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11min1200

He is most probably the world’s most loved politician and equally, the most hated. The latter has been bubbling under since the dawn of South Africa’s democracy in 1994, but is rising to the brim with each generation of black young South Africans, who are detaching themselves from the legacy of Nelson Mandela.

Tata, Madiba, Father of the nation, South Africa’s founding father…and other rhetoric of that ilk, will be on the tongues of many all over the world as today, marks what would have been, Mandela’s 100th birthday.  Brand Mandela will be celebrated through different initiatives- former USA president Barack Obama delivered a moving speech yesterday at the 16th annual Nelson Mandela lecturer which was attended by nearly 10,000 people at the Wanderers Cricket stadium; DSTV has launched a pop-up channel in honour of the man. In Germany, members of the Music Is A Great Investment (MIAGI) Youth Orchestra will embrace their contrasting origins and background to spread Madiba’s legacy through song. Since yesterday until tomorrow, the Southbank Centre in London will launch a free exhibition of the life of Mandela while in America, United Nations staff and diplomats will also carry out a public service activity in Mandela’s name, all in cooperation with the New York City Mayor’s office.

It should be noted that the common thread in all these activities, is that it stems from Caucasians or organizations ran by white people.

But looking and listening to young black South Africans, July 18 is just another day on the calendar. The disgruntlement comes from how South Africa’s democracy was found and the country’s inequality today. Usually dubbed the ‘sell-out’, Mandela is criticized for not putting the needs of black people first in the negotiations that took place before the African National Congress (ANC) took over the reins.

White South Africans who engineered the draconian apartheid system, were never sufficiently chastised for their generational costly deeds.  That black people still are the most impoverished in the South Africa is telling. CEO positions are still mostly occupied by white people.  The resentment of Mandela grows with each Mandela Day, as he is blatantly professed as the saviour of South Africa.

Years ago, waiting for a train at the Tembisa train station I eavesdropped on a conversation, between women who are domestic workers in the Kempton Park area. “I really thought that, after apartheid white people would be the ones working for us now. I thought I’d be bossing them around,” said one lady, followed by a burst of laughter. What she said and the manner she said it in, has always stuck with me. Her statement talks to the expectation that black South Africans had, when they went to cast their votes on April 27 in 1994, while her laughter resembled, how black people, time and time again, find humour in the darkest situations.

But she was old enough to vote, over 20 years ago and has somehow found a way to live in the new South Africa, much like what happened during apartheid. But the current generation of black youth is gatvol. Rightfully so. Co-founder of Soweto Art and Craft Fair, Seven Colour Sundays and Dinaledi Lifestyle Market, Mbali Radebe wrote on Facebook “Post 100 reasons why black people should let go of the so called ‘Mandela legacy’” and a number of people heeded the call, although she didn’t reach the 100 mark at the time of writing this, the response was telling.

Speaking to Tha Bravado, Radebe says the Mandela legacy serves no justice to black people. “It’s a legacy built on lies, most of the struggles our people are facing today were caused by the decisions he made at the most critical time of South Africa,” the 31 year-old Radebe says.

The Fees Must Fall movement was just sign of the growing impatience, from young people who were raised by parents that long gave up on the promises that came with a new South Africa. “They have finally realised that the legacy was all just a front. No education for the black child has been free, our parents have never had better opportunities, they have always been subjected to working for the white man and this has caused difficult living conditions for  youth post 1970, will now with ‘the born frees’.”

Madiba is blamed for not taking back the land and everything else that wasn’t rightfully aquired by white people in South Africa and for being too forgiving, in the name of building a Rainbow Nation. But a transition period was necessary; black people in Mzansi at the time weren’t in control of the army, police, healthcare, food supply nor education. Civil war is no child’s play and I believe, without a doubt that it would be helpless black people who would’ve suffered most, had Mandela decided on a civil war.

“The blame is put on him because he was the leader at that time and he could have lead the ANC differently,” says Radebe. “However we could say it’s the party as a whole. The Chris Hani mission or act which I wish all young black South Africans can get a chance to watch his documentaries, about the plan to set up the military which Bab’Hani was conducting in South Africa with Mum Winnie [Mandela] under the MK structures. We were ready for retaliation if only the action was taken under orders of Bab’Hani.”

It was the wise decision not to go to war at the time, but after Mandela’s first term in 1999, a conversation around land should’ve immediately taken place. But instead, we’re watching land debates on eNCA, in 2018.

It’s as though the ruling party was underestimating people’s intelligence, by supplying RDP houses, but it’s clear that project isn’t a long-term solution as majority of black people are still stranded in poverty.

Radebe says Madiba didn’t do much for her township, Soweto. “He left nothing. But Mam’Winnie left a more powerful legacy than him. She was the backbone of the black youth, and was the reason why people knew about Mandela whilst he disappeared, she fought for us.”

Crying over spilt milk could never solve anything, but the ruling party needs to address people’s needs that they ignored for the past two decades; to quell the anger that a lot of black youth who harbour resentment for a man that has died but whose legacy will never demise, in our lifetime at least .



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