Wednesday, February 27, 2013
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An Inspiring Africa; Why I think Winnie Mandela is an admirable Heroine.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013
Winnie Mandela, The Telegraph/ AFP/ Getty Images
By: Lina Imran, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

Do you know about this African Leader, Winnie Mandela? 

Heroes and Heroines could be discovered, but significant memories will remain…even after the passing of years, change of generations and transformation of history. 

The normal pattern of people’s lives mainly revolves around faith and relationships (social, economic, personal or political) in our respective livelihoods, culture, and tradition. We are all accustomed to; depending on our circumstances we tend to enjoy these major aspects of our lives in different ways and at different degrees. 

Today I would like to talk about the most contested iconic figures in the struggle against apartheid struggle in South Africa, “the Mother of a Nation” Winnie Madikizela Mandela

From the moment of birth, the reality of Winnie’s life acted as a foil to expectation. She was the daughter who should have been a son; the highly visible activist who should have been a demure and dutiful spouse; the tragic heroine who should have been an in genuine; the ex-wife who should have been first lady. 

The reason we need to talk about her, is mainly to learn about the journey of this amazing woman. Her conviction to the cause she lived and sacrificed all her life for – the liberation struggle. 

As young lady who came from the remote parts of South Africa to pursue her tertiary level education in Johannesburg, it struck me to know her life transformation and level of influence she was able to exert in her society and the world over. 

As young bride Winnie never had the luxury of time with her husband, Nelson Mandela. She made relentless effort to see her beloved husband through tedious prison laws and restrictive measures. She was a loving mother who struggled to maintain her job with the constant state of harassment of her employers. Winnie sacrificed enticing opportunities that came her way such as higher education abroad and instead chose to stay and help her people. 

She had an immense political consciousness, was articulate, well informed and an excellent orator. 

One could argue why her struggle is different while thousands of black South Africans went through torture and suffering inflicted by the apartheid regime. While it is an undeniable truth that the majority of the black South Africans went through decades of repression and marginalization, the story of this unique South African is an important one to look at. 

She bore so much agony with persistent interference from the regime in her life; house arrested for many years under tight surveillance; placed in solitary confinement for about 17 months and forced to live in exile with no family and friends. 

Despite all that, Winnie stayed firm, never looked back or questioned her principles. She has exceptional power and strength to have gone through this; even more when she was sent to exile in Bradfort, she had the courage to stand by her values, continued to help the society through social work for children and educated her community. 

Winnie’s everyday life was a mystery. When she appeared for public speeches that were always motivational, she kept her composure and never showed signs of weakness. That kept the struggle alive in most difficult times. 

Many believed that Winnie employed aggressive means, mobilized the youth in counter attacks that took place years before the culmination of the apartheid government. Two wrongs do not make a right. It is also true that, media played a substantial role in portraying her image negatively and unfairly as a scape goat to put down more pressure on Mandela, ANC and the people at large. Moreover, Winnie’s assertiveness and blunt honesty in her views and expressions was also used by the apartheid regime to ridicule her name and popularity in every way possible. 

Even after independence, she continued advocating for social justice, access to health services and economic advancement for South Africans. When you think about it, Winnie will continue to endure. The odds had happened to this amazing woman and her defiance was certainly not a one-time occurrence. A friend of mine always says, tougher challenges happen to great people and I believe Winnie is one of them. She worked hard, she made extremely difficult decisions in most difficult times of the history of her country and yet she came out stronger and even more determined. As young people, I dare not to judge her in manner like that of the biased Media’s. We owe it to her country’s history to dig deeper and discover her true and real identity. We owe it to Africa to at least try and harness the inspiration behind leaders such as Winnie Mandela.



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Lina Imran is a graduate of Addis Ababa University, with an MA in Peace and Security Studies, a BA in Political Science and International Relations. She has been doing an internship at the ASSN since March 2010 and has been the main Rapporteur for three important African Union SSR meetings in Addis Ababa. Currently Lina is working as a Research Assistant and ASSN support staff to the African Union Security Sector Reform Project. She has also been actively engaged in the African Union Youth Volunteer Corps since July 2009. She is also a One Young World (OYW) Convening Ambassador for Ethiopia and Action Partner for Oxfam International Youth Action Partner (OIYP). She has participated in a number of SSR workshops in Ethiopia, Burkina Faso and Sweden. Lina is fluent in English and Amharic, fair Arabic and a smattering of French. She has also done studies on Youth and Violence with particular Reference to the Horn of Africa.


Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this post are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect official policy or position of Connect African Development.


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Editorial Team.

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