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Famous words of Winnie Mandela

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Winnie Mandela

Nomzamo Winifred Zanyiwe Madikizela-Mandela was born to a noble family of the Xhosa-speaking Pondo tribe in Transkei. Her first name, Nomzamo, means “she who must endure trials.”

Born on Sept. 26, 1936, according to the Nelson Mandela Foundation and many other sources, she passed away on April 2, this year, aged 81.

The fourth of eight children, her mother, Gertrude, was a teacher who died when Winnie was 8.

Seen as the “mother of the nation” by many who admired her steely leadership, firebrand rhetoric and courageous activism against a brutal racist regime, Madikizela-Mandela was, however, not without her weaknesses as any other human being.

A polarizing figure in South Africa, admired by loyalists prepared to focus on her contribution to ending apartheid and vilified by critics who foremost saw her flaws, few could, however, ignore her presence.

Here are some famous words from the late activist at different points in her life.

On Apartheid and South Africa Today

“I would be extremely naive if I suggested to you that South Africa today is what we dreamt of when we gave up our lives.

We came from a very brutal period of our history, a country that was segregated, and to transition from that era to where we are today has been a really painful journey.”

On how black people will gain freedom in South Africa

“Together, hand in hand, with our matches and our necklaces, we shall liberate this country.”

On Patriarchy

“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.”

“To those who oppose us, we say, ‘Strike the woman, and you strike the rock.”

On her relationship with her husband

“I would be picked up after work. Nelson, a fitness fanatic, was there in the car in gym attire. I was taken to the gym, to watch him sweat! That became the pattern of my life. One moment, I was watching him.

Then he would dash off to meetings, with just time to drop me off at the hostel. Even at that stage, life with him was a life without him.”

On what prison did to her

“The years of imprisonment hardened me; perhaps, if you have been given a moment to hold back and wait for the next blow, your emotions wouldn’t be blunted as they have been in my case.”

“When it happens every day of your life, when that pain becomes a way of life, I no longer have the emotion of fear. There is no longer anything I can fear. There is nothing the government has not done to me. There isn’t any pain I haven’t known.”

On her feelings for Nelson Mandela

“I had so little time to love him. And that love has survived all these years of separation; perhaps, if I’d had time to know him better I might have found a lot of faults, but I only had time to love him and long for him all the time.”

On her husband’s imprisonment

“They think because they have put my husband on an island that he will be forgotten. They are wrong. The harder they try to silence him, the louder I will become!”

On black solidarity 

“It is only when all black groups join hands and speak with one voice that we shall be a bargaining force which will decide its own destiny.”

On Unity

“The scenes of jubilation, the spontaneous outpouring of celebration following FIFA’s decision, the solidarity of pride and unity evoked by a sporting event should serve as a shining example to black and white alike.”

On if she was sorry for the things she was accused of

“I’m not sorry. I will never be sorry. I would do everything I did again if I had to. Everything.”


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Winnie Mandela
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