By Denrele Animasaun
‘Peace cannot be kept by force; it can only be achieved by understanding.” ~ Martin Luther King, Jr.
Shikamo! Ma Winnie Madikizela– Mandela!
The world woke to news of the death of Winnie Madikizela Mandela at the age of 81. Her passing for a certain generation including mine is very seismic and she represented the power behind the struggle. For many of us, who caught the glimpse of apartheid in books like Alan Paton’s Cry, the beloved country, the death of Steve Biko and the Sharpeville massacre in 1960-all gave an insight of what majority indigenous black South Africans had to endure during the pernicious apartheid regime of minority whites in South Africa. Winnie was instrumental and she was the face of the struggle. She was defiant and a phenomenal woman who refused to cower despite every threat and obstacle put in her way. She was determined to fight and kept the fight in the consciousness of the world, when her husband, Nelson Mandela was in prison in Robben Island for 26 years. Nigeria was a strong ally and a strong comrade, who supported in cash and in kind.
It took this charismatic Winnie Madikizela-Mandela to take on the fight against apartheid when young men and boys were rounded up and, tortured, imprisoned and murdered. Women were the backbone of the struggle, – “The overwhelming majority of women accept patriarchy unquestioningly and even protect it, working out the resultant frustrations not against men but against themselves in their competition for men as sons, lovers and husbands. Traditionally the violated wife bides her time and off-loads her built-in aggression on her daughter-in-law. So men dominate women through the agency of women themselves.”
Her contribution was key and no matter what the mainstream Western media have chosen to rewrite as the narrative; by playing down her role in dismantling her role in the struggle, we must not forget, Winnie was a titan, a warrior and a tireless campaigner. She was also a product of her time and she represented what life was like under apartheid. So they chose to paint her as a controversial figure but for many that know what Winnie did, she was key to the eventual embargo and the dismantling of the apartheid system and segregation of black majority and alienation of basic human rights in the country of their birth by minority whites, who denied and perpetuated the oppressive system and power over blacks in South Africa. Winnie was in all sense of the word at the forefront, a leader of the struggle and of the liberation of her people and those who suffered similar struggle around the world. She was a tower of strength and defiant. During the struggle she chose not to run away, she fought hard and stayed with her people in the township and she endured years of daily surveillance, threats, harassment, arrest and imprisonment. She faced 491 days in solitary confinement and eight years in exile. What many did not know was, the South African apartheid government used many methods of torture against her, for instance, while in confinement they routinely, denied her sanitary products so that she was found, in detention, covered in her own menstrual blood. They humiliated and degraded her in every way possible but she remained unbowed. She chose to stand and fight and was in the forefront leading the fight and struggle with her people and agitating for change. Winnie Mandela’s approach to apartheid was unlike her ex-husband, Nelson, who espoused non-violence as a means to dismantle the regime especially when he was released from prison. He called for a rainbow nation, reconcilation and co-existence and forgiveness after his release from prison.
Nelson and Winnie Mandela were the most celebrated political couple in South Africa. Hailed as the “mother of the nation”, she kept the name of her husband alive during his 27years in prison. She was a young social worker when she married Mr Mandela, then already a prominent ANC leader, in 1958. He was sentenced to life in prison in 1961 for his role in fighting apartheid.
Winnie was seen as loose cannon, an embarrassment to the new sanitised South Africa, they tried but failed to air brush her from the history of the struggle. Winnie was the fearless struggle in every sense of the word-she was a contradiction-she was a woman, married to a man who spent more years in prison than the marriage, she was beautiful, well spoken, very educated, a mother and black woman. She was a triple threat and they did not know what to do with her –”I am a product of the masses of my country. I am the product of my enemy.”
We must not forget she was the mother of the struggle, she lost personally and psychologically for the struggle, she sacrificed so much. She was made of steely material and this lady was not going to go quietly. She was derided and side-lined by the ANC party, denied a stake in her late husband’s will, a place in her husband’s resting place.
Winnie does not need these material things, she fought gallantly and she will continue to have a place in the hearts of many. She is the people’s champion and a warrior by every means possible. They cannot rewrite history and her role in the struggle-” I believe something is very wrong with the history of our country, and how we have messed up the African National Congress.”
50 years and Martin Luther King Jr’s legacy
This week marks the 50th anniversary of the death of the civil rights leader, Martin Luther King Jr. by a white supremacist. He was 39 years old. He left behind a wife and four children. In his 39 years, King achieved so much and his legacy lives on and serves as an inspiration to younger generations and those facing oppressive regimes the world over. He was the recipient and at the time, the youngest to have received the Nobel peace prize. He was an author of five books of famous sermons, quotations and lectures. He was a Baptist minister like his father, King Senior. He came to prominence for his non-violent peace demonstrations. He led the bus boycott that segregated black people. Black people in America then had to sit at the back of the bus and white people sat at the front. The boycott of buses by black people started the eventual desegregation of the American policies and laws and the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that bus segregation laws are unconstitutional. As a civil rights leader, King was arrested many times, tortured, humiliated and hounded by the secret services and the Police. His home was burnt down, his mother and his brother were killed. He led the million man March and gave his “I Have a Dream” speech on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial that was attended by over 250,000 strong audience . In April 4, 1968, Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated in Memphis, Tennessee.
Below are some of Martin Luther King Jr.’s quotes;
“I Have A Dream Quotes”. I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the colour of their skin, but by the content of their character”. Martin Luther King, Jr.
“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that”.
“Free at last, Free at last, Thank God Almighty we are free at last.
If you can’t fly then run, if you can’t run then walk, if you can’t walk then crawl, but whatever you do you have to keep moving forward.”
Martin Luther King Jr. would have been 88 years.