In the days following Winnie Madikizela-Mandela’s passing, it became apparent that South Africa hadn’t made peace with her yet. Within hours of her death, people were divided: ‘she’s a criminal,’ said some, ‘she’s a hero,’ said others. And so it went on, relentlessly, in the country and around the world. But now, after more than a week of grappling with who she was, what she did and what she stood for, is the nation finally able to let her rest in peace?
In a special supplement to the Mail&Guardian (on shelves until Thursday 19 April), the newspaper compiled a beautifully-curated 16 pages on the Mother of the Nation, and the contributors have highlighted why the country has struggled with her death. From capitalising on the legacy of Nelson Mandela and Winnie (poignantly penned by Kwanele Sosibo) to the racism and sexism that still hound her in death, (beautifully written by Zukiswa Wanner) and the unsympathetic scrutiny of a black woman in power (as argued by Bongani Madondo).
The death of one of our greatest struggle icons has once again lifted the veil of composure to show how divided our narratives are. The international community also weighed in, and alongside the tributes there were also scathing rants. As the New York Times wrote on the day of her death: ‘Winnie Mandela, ‘Mother’, Then ‘Mugger’, of New South Africa.’ This narrative has slowly shifted over the last week, particularly within South Africa, to a more sympathetic portrayal. Change has, and never will come from, being silent and comfortable. In death as in life, Winnie Madikizela-Mandela has forced the nation to talk about and confront its long-standing perceptions and misconceptions. The special tribute supplement in the Mail&Guardian will be available until Thursday. Grab yourself a copy and read the moving tributes and reflections on the life and times of one of the country’s most complex figures.