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Winnie made the world a better place

Apr 08 2018 06:03
Muzi Kuzwayo

LET us mourn in peace. Let our wounds heal quietly and without your disturbance. No, your ant-sized mind will never understand the beauty that was Winnie Madikizela-Mandela.

“Beauty is a thing of might and dread,” wrote Kahlil Gibran, “Like the tempest, she shakes the earth beneath us and the sky above us.”

Damn it, man! Admit it! Winnie shook the all-powerful men and women who embodied apartheid. She fought for the defenceless and won.

You say she was no saint. Cast your stone; it can do no more harm. In any case, you were baptised in hypocrisy, for your unmarried God has a son with the wife of another man. Neither heaven nor earth has witnessed a greater scandal. Our pain needs no validation from you, and your filthy lies will sink with the sewage.

The Winnie Madikizela-Mandela brand humanised our revolution. Photographs of her that portrayed a beauty far surpassing that of mainstream models, along with her unmistakably African fashion choices, put the struggle against apartheid in fashion magazines around the world.

She elevated the picture of the African woman beyond the prevalent stereotype of a snotty nose, a stack of wood on her head and a baby on her back.

The revolutionary image that she portrayed sat uncomfortably with the moguls and do-gooders who wanted to portray the African woman as a baby machine, a hewer of wood and a drawer of water.

The sound of her sweet name said it all. She transcended her race and gender by becoming a universal symbol of winning against all odds; men and women across the world lived vicariously through her, and fought hard to conquer their own demons.

Only those who lost their unearned privilege fought against her. They continue to fight her, even after her death. They will not succeed; their feeble vitriol will dissipate like dew in the sun.

José Martí, the man who inspired Fidel Castro, wrote: “Men are like the stars. Some generate their own light, while others reflect the brilliance they receive.”

Winnie generated the light when the dark hour of despair was so deep it could eclipse a thousand suns.

Winnie accomplished her earthly role with distinction. She mothered this nation when it needed her most. She wiped away all the bitterness with her beaming smile. She didn’t take the easy path of racial violence, but remained true to her ideals at a time when most would have abandoned them.

I first met Winnie Madikizela-Mandela in the Parliament precinct. Her divorce from Nelson Mandela was taking its toll.

There she was – the woman who had been steadfast against the most brutal oppression, and who had kept the name of her husband alive while he was incarcerated in the abyss of inhumanity – suddenly being rejected by the man who was loved the most by the world. Unsurprisingly, her shoulders were still high, and she smiled at the staff in Parliament.

Winnie persevered in pain, was magnanimous throughout her suffering and incomparably gracious in rejection.

Fear feared her because she was just too strong. She symbolised beauty and happiness. She valued all, especially the condemned, the forgotten and the poor who lived in squalour, and made them realise that their lives mattered. She dedicated herself to a noble life and was willing to suffer. She forgave her tormentors and smiled through it all.

We can say with confidence that Winnie Madikizela-Mandela won on earth, and made the world a better place. Not many of us can say that about ourselves.

* Kuzwayo is the founder of Ignitive, an advertising agency

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