Africans have espoused the extraordinary achievements of one of its own, South Africa’s anti-apartheid campaigner Winnie Madikizela-Mandela who died at the age of 81 last week.
Her death was met by an outpouring of emotion on various fronts. She has been remembered as a heroine of liberation, and defiant in her pursuit of revolution and redress.
But her uncompromising methods in the long struggle against white rule and refusal to forgive contrasted sharply with the reconciliation espoused by her husband Nelson Mandela, who worked to forge a pluralistic democracy out of the brutal racial divide and oppression of apartheid.
In Zimbabwe, activist and outspoken critic of former president Robert Mugabe, Pastor Evan Mawarire hailed Madikizela-Mandela as an inspiration in the continued fight for justice that he says many young people across the continent need take up.
“You cannot outsource your struggle, your struggle is yours, Winnie Mandela exemplified that, she refused to give up a her spot to fight for her freedom to someone else. She refused to sub-contract the future that she was fighting for to someone else to an organisation, to negotiate somewhere, she wanted to be at that table. This is what the generation of freedom seekers and those that fight for justice in our generation must understand, nobody will do it for us. We must be present ourselves we must be present on the field of battle, we must be present, we must be present at the table of negotiation,” he said.
A Congolese resident from Kinshasa, Popol Punza said Winnie Mandela now stands alongside Mandela Madiba, the father of the nation.
“Winnie Mandela was iconic for us Congolese people. She was an icon because you cannot talk about the fight for the liberation of Mandela Madiba without talking about Winnie Mandela. Winnie Mandela now stands alongside Mandela Madiba, the father of the nation. She did everything and used everything she had to fight against apartheid. We cannot talk about Mandela’s fight against apartheid and exclude this woman. In my opinion, she is and will remain an icon for all Congolese”, Punza said.
But for Nairobi resident, Onesmus Musyoki, people must be honored while they live and not in their death.
“I had heard about her since I was young but I had not heard much about her until she died. I think she is just getting a lot of publicity when she died. I used to hear a lot about her but not that much”, Musyoki remarked.
During her husband’s 27-year incarceration, Madikizela-Mandela campaigned tirelessly for his release and for the rights of black South Africans, suffering years of detention, banishment and arrest by the white-minority regime that ran Africa’s most advanced economy from 1948 to 1994.
But for Madikizela-Mandela, the end of apartheid marked the start of a string of legal and political troubles that, accompanied by tales of her glamorous living, kept her in the spotlight for all the wrong reasons.