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Adieu, Winifred Mandela


(FILES) This file photo taken on December 16, 2017 shows former wife of the late South African President Nelson Mandela, Winnie Madikizela-Mandela waving as she attends the 54th ANC National Conference at the NASREC Expo Centre in Johannesburg.<br />South Africa’s Winnie Madikizela-Mandela who is popularly known as “the mother of the nation” has been admitted to hospital with a kidney infection, the family of her ex-husband Nelson Mandela said January 23.<br />/ AFP PHOTO / MUJAHID SAFODIEN

Whatever has a beginning must surely have an end, so, it is in human Life. The only exception to the rule is the eternity of the Universe; world without end.

Before I eventually decided to write on Mrs. Winifred Madikizela Madela who recently translated, to the Great Beyond, one question repeatedly exercised my mind: “Is it necessary to write a tribute about her?”

Two principles decided my conclusion: “It is better to err on the side of forgiveness”, and also: “To err is human, to forgive is Divine”.


Therefore, I chose to forget whatever misdeeds that she might have committed towards the end of her turbulent matrimony with her legendary husband, Nelson Mandela Besides, only the Almighty can forgive us our trespasses.

On April 2, 2018, at the Netcare Milpark Hospital, Johannesburg, South Africa, Mrs. Winifred Mandela breathed her last, as a result of a long term illness, Life is journey.

And the couple’s martial life was a dramatic irony because neither of them ever envisaged their separation at the time that it occurred. How did the martial relationship begin? According to Nelson, in his life time, they met one afternoon.

“As I drove a friend of mine from Orlando to medical school at the University of the Witwatersrand, passing a bus stop, I noticed out of the corner of my eye a lovely young woman waiting at a bus stop.

Struck by her beauty and I turned my head to get a better look at her, but I had gone by too fast. Her face stayed with me and considered turning around to drive by her in other direction, but I went on.”

Weeks after, by a miraculous coincidence, Nelson Mandela met the young woman again at the law chambers of Oliver Tambo who introduced him to her and her brother, with the explanation that they were on a legal matter. That was the beginning of the relationship between Nelson and Namizamo Winifred Madikizula.

She attended Jan Hofmeyr School of Social Work in Johannesburg and was working as the First Black female social worker at Baragwanah Hospital.

Nelson Mandela reminisced: “I cannot say for certain if there is such a thing as love at first sight, but I do know that the moment that I first sight, but I do know that the moment that I first glimpsed at Winnie, I knew that I wanted to have her as my wife.”

Winifred Madikizela Mandela was born on September 26, 1936, to a Xhosa family in Bizana; she was the sixth of 11 children of C.K. Madikizela, a school teacher, but later turned to business. Her given name was Nomazamo, meaning one who strives or undergoes trials and tribulations, a prophetic name that came into fulfillment in her later adulthood.

She was married to Nelson on June 14, 1958. Her father once remarked: “Winifred, you are marrying a jail bird. You are marrying a man who was already married to the struggle for liberation.

Therefore, if your man is a wizard, you must become a witch.”

Due to her political activities, she was regularly detained by National Party Government. She was tortured, subjected as house arrest, kept under surveillance, held in solitary confinement and banished to remote towns.

Winnie campaigned actively for equal rights and was promoted by the African National Congress as a symbol of their struggle against apartheid.

Thorns and roses, together, make for the quality of human life. In 1985, Winnie won the Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Award along with fellow activists Allan Boesak and Bevers Naude for their human rights work in South Africa.

In addition, she received a Condace Award for Distinguished Service from the National Coalition of 100 Black Women in 1988.

She came under questionable reputation. During a speech in Munsievielle on April 13, 1986, Winifred Mandela endorsed the practice of neck lacing; that is, burning people alive, using tyres and petrol, arguing: “With our boxes of marches and our neck laces, we shall liberate this country.”

That stance and other allegations hugely tarnished her reputation. The sun began to set for Winifred Mandela. There was an allegation of infidelity against her.

Therefore, on April 13, 1992, at a press conference in Johannesburg, Nelson Mandela announced his separation from Winifred.

“In view of the tensions in recent months, we have mutually agreed that a separation could be best for each of us.” Their divorce was finalised in 1996, with unspecific out-of-court settlement.

Paraphrasing 2nd Timothy, chapter 4, verse 7, Winifred Mandela had fought a good fight. She had finished her course. And she had kept the faith.

May God bless her ashes and her soul rest in peace. Amen.

Oshisada is a veteran journalist, wrote from Ikorodu, Lagos.

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Winifred Mandela
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