Editorial | Selflessly fought fight thrust on her

Try, for a moment, to appreciate what Winnie Madikizela-Mandela's suffering entailed.

Winnie Madikizela-Mandela died on Monday at Milpark Hospital in Johannesburg.
Winnie Madikizela-Mandela died on Monday at Milpark Hospital in Johannesburg.
Image: Frennie Shivambu/Gallo Images

At some point, we all suffer. And we all endure. Such is humanity’s lot. How we respond to adversity can be defining.

A few will suffer and endure because of self-inflicted folly.

Others have it thrust upon them, by dint of circumstance for which they have little to no responsibility.

Winnie Madikizela-Mandela suffered and endured, all because of an indefensible and grotesque programme of racial engineering that saw her husband, former president Nelson Mandela, jailed for 27 years.

When he emerged from his incarceration, he was embraced by a world that saw him as a veritable saint.

Apartheid was on its knees and the great man came with an offering of peace.

By the time he died in 2013, his star shone brighter than ever in the firmament.

Any question of his human fallibility was answered with another question: “Who’s perfect, anyway?”.
Mandela suffered and endured a great deal, too.

None other than Madikizela-Mandela made sure the world knew that. For this cause she toiled endlessly.

But try, for a moment, to appreciate what her suffering entailed.

She was outspoken and defiant, necessarily so, at a time when those in charge were hostile, white, male and intent on a hateful, nationalist agenda that viewed blacks as Untermensch. They tried to crush her at every turn.

In a sense she was a true soldier, on the battlefield day in, day out, with the singular goal of victory in mind.

A woman activist, a wife, a mother, fighting an ugly war in an ugly world.

Yes, there were darker episodes in her life and these will surely stalk her name in death.

When all is said and done, our nation is marked by these two legacies forged in the cauldrons of apartheid, both shaped by unwanted suffering and endurance; one gilded, another girded, by a selfless struggle that is as much about history as it is about our future.