So Long to Zindzi Mandela: Daughter of Nelson and Winnie Mandela

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Zindzi Mandela (Source: Timeslive.co.za)

It is with sadness that I learnt of the passing of Zindziswa Mandela, daughter of Winnie Madikizela-Mandela and Nelson Mandela, this past Monday in a hospital of Johannesburg at the tender age of 59. Last child of her parents, she was affectionately called Zindzi. She grew up at the height of the anti-apartheid struggle in South Africa, of which her parents were at the forefront as revolutionaries: she was only 18 months old when her father was thrown in jail for 27 years. She was projected into the spotlight at the age of 16, when her mother was banished to Bramburg, and later on at 25 when her father Nelson Mandela was offered a conditional release in 1985 by the then-State PresidentP. W. Botha. Her father’s reply could not be delivered by either one of her parents. Consequently, Zindzi was chosen to read his refusal at a public meeting on 10 February 1985.

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Nelson Mandela clothed in a Pathe’O shirt

In a statement, the Nelson Mandela Foundation said of her legacy, “Zindzi will be remembered for a rich and extraordinary life, marked by many iconic moments. The years she spent banished with Mama Winnie Madikizela-Mandela to the small town of Brandfort. That summer’s day in February 1985 at Jabulani Stadium when she read to the world Madiba’s rejection of President Botha’s offer of a conditional release from prison. Her own courageous work in underground structures. Public service as South African Ambassador to Denmark. We will also remember her as a special soul.

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Winnie Madikizela  Mandela

Zindzi was a very strong woman who went through the struggles of her mother, Winnie, when she was banished and tortured during the apartheid regime; one could say that she was her mother’s closest companion. She had to grow up fast. In his personal archive, Nelson Mandela spoke of Zindzi’s strength, as well as to the nature of their relationship. In a 1969 letter from prison, Madiba noted that Zindzi’s “heart is sore because I am not at home and wants to know when I will come back.” In a 1987 letter to Zindzi, Madiba told her that he had heard from an acquaintance that she was as strong as a rock. He went on: “That is just the kind of remark a father would like to hear about his beloved child. I literally swelled with pride and satisfaction. That remark reached me at the right time, shortly after you had just gone through a rather harrowing experience.” He ended the letter: “Tons and tons of love darling, and a million kisses.”

I leave you here with Zindzi reading her father’s letter of rejection in 1985. You must admit that for a young woman, reading that letter must have required a lot of courage, determination and strength to defy the apartheid regime and stand in front of such a crowd (a full stadium) thirsty for words of encouragement, and hope from their leaders to keep facing the injustices of an inhumane regime. Bold!

Who/What did We Say Goodbye to in Africa in 2018?

In the year 2018, we said goodbye to some people, some events, and some things.  Here are 10 of those:

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    Winnie Madikizela Mandela

    Winnie Madikizela-Mandela the Great: the Mother of the Nation, and a Warrior like No Other! Everyone celebrates Nelson Mandela, but everybody forgets that without Winnie Mandela, there would have been no Nelson. While he was in jail, she carried on the battle, carried his name high, and carried the nation: Strong African Women and History Amnesia, Patriarchy, Sexism, and Racism: the Case of Winnie Mandela. Below is the strong and powerful eulogy given by Julius Malema,  for an exceptional woman.

  2. The trumpetist Hugh Masekela… no more “Strawberries” for me… but I still love dancing to the sound of the “The Boy is doing it!“. His genius, spirit and music remain with us. So Long to Africa’s Jazz Maestro: Hugh Masekela
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    Hugh Masekela

    Kofi Annan , the previous UN Secretary-General passed away, and was buried in Ghana.

  4.  We said bye-bye to division between Eritrea and Ethiopia, as peace treaties were signed:  Peace at last between the 2 sisters Eritrea and Ethiopia.
  5.  We said goodbye to the name ‘Swaziland‘ for the country Swaziland, and welcomed Eswatini, officially known as the Kingdom of Eswatini.
  6. The world said goodbye to Aretha Franklin, the African American singer, who reveled us with ‘I say a little prayer for you‘, ‘Respect‘, and so many other hit tubes.
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    Aretha Franklin

    We also said goodbye to Joseph Kadji Defosso, the great Cameroonian business magnate head of a conglomerate of companies, creator of the Kadji Sport Academy from which world-renowned football player Samuel Eto’o, and others like Idriss Carlos KameniNicolas Nkoulou and Benjamin Moukandjo came out of. Kadji was 95 years old.

  8. The statue of ‘racist’ Gandhi was removed from the University of Ghana campus. It is important to have our own African heroes represented on our campuses and  textbooks.
  9. Over 200 people lost their lives when a ferry capsized on Lake Victoria, in Tanzania. This marked the second-most deadliest ferry disaster in Tanzania.
  10. This was the last world cup for the Egyptian Goalkeeper Essam El-Hadary, who at 45 was the oldest player at the World cup. And lastly, the African Teams at the 2018 FIFA World Cup performed poorly. We wish for a better one next time.

Mariam Sankara’s Declaration

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Thomas and Mariam Sankara on their wedding day

Today, I have translated Mariam Sankara‘s declaration on the day of the 30th-year anniversary of the death of her husband, the president of the Faso, the great revolutionary Thomas Sankara.

Very often we forget women’s contributions to revolutions, history acts as if these men had been all alone. If Mariam Sankara had not been home to take care of their two children, to take care of Thomas when he got home after a hard day, do you think we would have had a revolution? If Winnie Mandela had not carried on the battle, do you think the world would have known about Nelson Mandela? Maybe not… because during those 27 years while Nelson was living a ‘somewhat’ cozy life in prison, Winnie was being jailed, attacked, harassed, beaten to death, had to run to exile several times, but she kept his name high up. Now, today, history chooses to only count his contributions, forgetting hers!

So here is the declaration from Mariam Sankara, that she made last year on 15 Oct 2017. The original on ThomasSankara.net; the text has been translated to English by Dr. Y., Afrolegends.com

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Thomas Sankara
Thomas Sankara a Ouagadougou

Ladies and gentlemen, dear friends,

The assassination of President Sankara and his companions on October 15, 1987, interrupted an original and promising development experience in the history of contemporary Africa.

I would like to thank you for your support to the whole Sankara family and to me as well as for your loyalty to the memory of President Thomas Sankara.

Through his policy, Thomas defended, by giving the example himself, essential values such as integrity, honesty, humility, courage, will, respect and justice. By mobilizing the various components of society, he fought hard against the debt, for the well-being of all Burkinabé, the promotion of Burkinabé cultural heritage and the emancipation of women. He urged his fellow citizens to take care of themselves to live with dignity. In short, he refused submission to the diktat of the most powerful in this world, took the defense of the weakest and most disadvantaged. Impregnated with these values and ideas, you have, through the popular uprising of October 30 and 31, 2014, put an end to the dictatorial regime of Compaoré. This insurrection has allowed the people to take back the floor to demand, among other things, the end of impunity, the reopening of the justice file on the assassination of Thomas Sankara and his companions, that of Norbert Zongo and many others.

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Flag of Burkina Faso

The decision taken in Burkina Faso by the transitional authorities to finally bring justice to Thomas Sankara has generated immense hope in Burkina, in Africa in general and in the world. But we are still waiting for justice.

The request of the civil society and families is clear. We want to know as soon as possible the sponsors and the executors of this assassination and those of the other crimes.

To delay the quest for truth is to play the game of the assassins of Thomas Sankara and his companions. To do no justice is to refuse a dignified burial for Thomas Sankara and his companions, it is to prevent families from mourning.

That is why the people of Burkina Faso and their friends must remain mobilized and relaunch the campaign so that thirty years later, justice is finally done for Thomas Sankara and his companions.

Dear compatriots, our family welcomes your initiative to erect a memorial to Thomas Sankara.

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Mariam and Thomas Sankara with their children

Like many of our compatriots, we are committed to the defense and safeguarding of Thomas Sankara’s memory. I would like to salute this initiative of the civil society, led by the association CIMTS (International Committee for the Thomas Sankara Memorial). This Memorial project enjoys popular support. A consensual and inclusive approach should allow to realize a quality work which will testify to the vitality of the ideas of Thomas and his faithful companions of the revolution of August 4, 1983. However, the family wants this memorial not to be built in the enclosure of the Council of the Entente which brings back painful memories because of the assassinations and the tortures which have marked this place.

With all these wishes for the valorization of the memory of Thomas observed around the world, one realizes with the time that Thomas Sankara was a visionary. Aware of the actions of the critics of the revolution, he knew he was misunderstood because he was ahead of his time. He said back then: “kill Sankara, thousands of Sankara will be born”. This has become a reality. Today, we see that the youth is immersed in its progressive ideas to transform society.

Thirty years after his death, Thomas’s thought remains alive and of actuality.

Once again, I congratulate you on your commitment and your loyalty to the memory of President Thomas Sankara.

30 years of resistance!

30 years of impunity!

Finally bring justice to Thomas Sankara and his companions and to all the victims of unpunished crimes!

Homeland or death, we will overcome!

I thank you.

Mariam Sankara

Montpellier, 15th October 2017

Strong African Women and History Amnesia, Patriarchy, Sexism, and Racism: the Case of Winnie Mandela

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Winnie Madikizela-Mandela

The world celebrates men. Men can be ambitious, they can work to liberate their countries, they can be revolutionaries, and lead people. No one is against that. The world applauds these men. But when women fight for the liberation of their countries, they are vilified; they are called all sorts of names. It’s as if the world suffers from selective amnesia. We have a woman who is at the same level as all the world revolutionaries, Winnie Madikizela-Mandela. 

Just taking a look back at history, men, white supremacy, and patriarchy do not like strong women, and particularly strong black women. For instance, in the 1660s, white men described (and it can still be read in history books) the great Angolan warrior Queen Nzingha who fought for her people’s freedom and fought the Portuguese against slavery, as an angry, power-hungry, and over-sexed woman who would sleep with one new soldier every night, and have him killed the next morning. Such absurdity! Wouldn’t that diminish her troops, troops strongly needed to fight against the Portuguese?

Queen Nzingha of Angola
Queen Nzingha of Angola

Next, we have the great queen Taytu Betul, the queen without whom there would have been no Battle of Adwa, where Ethiopia defeated Italy, the first victory of an African nation on a European one. There again, European historians describe Queen Taytu Betul as a man-eater, a woman with a black heart, manipulative, hateful, and conniving.

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Empress Taytu Betul of Ethiopia

In both cases, the truth is that they are afraid of the power of the Black woman; these historians vilify Black women. The patriarchal and white supremacy system hates Winnie Madikizela-Mandela because she fought like no other, like no man would have. She was strong, and brave, and a woman of principle. To them, she was a woman, she should have stayed home, and not joined and fought tirelessly for freedom. Even though she was cleared of the murder of Stompi, she is hated while Nelson Mandela is sanctified, but everybody forgets that Nelson Mandela was once the leader of Umkhonto we Sizwe the armed branch of the ANC. We do not hate that fact, because we know that, that was what was needed at the time for the apartheid regime to fall. So why do people applaud Nelson Mandela, and honor him, while they hate Winnie Madikizela-Mandela who kept his name alive while he was in jail 27 years, and fought like not many human beings (not even him) would have fought? The world applauds him, because he is a man. The world should also celebrate her, Winnie Madikizela-Mandela.

Stop the sexist history, the patriarchist history, the racist history. Winnie Madikizela-Mandela is a world revolutionary, and should be applauded for her stance all those years, for her hard work, her determination, her principle, and her love of her people. She should be celebrated. Please do watch what EFF leader Julius Malema has to say about it.

Winnie Madikizela-Mandela’s Last Interview

Here is Winnie Madikizela-Mandela’s last interview. She goes over parts of her life, the apartheid era, the transition, and the difference between political vs economical power. She also talks about the current leadership, and the need for a re-evaluation of the ANC, and the need for a new vision. A note: the leadership of Ghana had a delegation there with EFF leader Julius Malema to send their last goodbyes to Mama Winnie. Also the light has been shed on the truth about the fact that Winnie never killed Stompi! Enjoy!

Winnie Madikizela-Mandela in Her Own Words

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Winnie Madikizela-Mandela (Source: Reuters)

“They think because they have put my husband on an island that he will be forgotten. They are wrong. The harder they try to silence him, the louder I will become!” – 1962

I will not allow the selfless efforts of my husband and his friends to be abandoned. I will continue the struggle for a free and equal South Africa.” – 1962

“To those who oppose us, we say, ‘Strike the woman, and you strike the rock‘.” – 1966

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Winnie Madikizela-Mandela during her exile in Brandfort, 1977 (Source: Timeslive.co.za)

A flavor of the harassment and trauma of a typical raid [under the apartheid regime]: “…that midnight knock when all about you is quiet. It means those blinding torches shone simultaneously through every window of your house before the door is kicked open. It means the exclusive right the security branch have to read each and every letter in the house. It means paging through each and every book on your shelves, lifting carpets, looking under beds, lifting sleeping children from mattresses and looking under the sheets. It means tasting your sugar, your mealie meal and every spice on your kitchen shelf. Unpacking all your clothing and going through each pocket. Ultimately it means your seizure at dawn, dragged away from little children screaming and clinging to your skirt, imploring the white man dragging Mummy away to leave her alone.” – 1960s

Up until the 1970s, the years of constant police harassment, jail time and intimidation had done absolutely nothing to quash Winnie’s revolutionary spirit; indeed, her conviction had only become stronger.  Her message to the authorities was clear: “you cannot intimidate people like me anymore.” – 1970s

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‘491 Days Prisoner number 1323/69’ by Winnie Madikizela-Mandela

It is only when all black groups, join hands and speak with one voice that we shall be a bargaining force which will decide its own destiny.” – 1976

If you are to free yourselves you must break the chains of oppression yourselves. Only then can we express our dignity, only when we have liberated ourselves can we co-operate with other groups. Any acceptance of humiliation, indignity or insult is acceptance of inferiority.” – 1976 (similar to President Thomas Sankara’s words, 8 years before he uttered them).

We have no guns – we have only stones, boxes of matches and petrol. Together, hand in hand, with our matches and our necklaces, we shall liberate this country.” – 1986

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Winnie Mandela during a rally (Source: Business Insider South Africa)

There is no longer anything I can fear. There is nothing the government has not done to me. There isn’t any pain I haven’t known.” – 1987

“I am the product of the masses of my country and the product of my enemy.” – 1996

I was not made by a racist media and I will not be unmade by a racist media. What matters is what I mean to my people…without economic power, freedom is worthless.

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Winnie Madikizela-Mandela

I’m not sorry. I will never be sorry. I would do everything I did again if I had to. Everything.”

“All what we fought for is not what is going on right now. It is a tragedy that he lived and saw what was happening, we cannot pretend like South Africa is not in crisis, our country is in crisis and anyone who cannot see that is just bluffing themselves.”– 2017

Winnie the Great: the Mother of the Nation, and a Warrior like No Other!

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Nelson and Winnie Mandela, on Nelson’s release from prison on 11 Feb. 1990

It is with great sadness that I learned of the passing of Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, the mother of the Nation. My eyes still remember that pivotal day, of February 11, 1990, when Winnie Madikizela-Mandela walked hand-in-hand with her husband Nelson Mandela as he was coming out of jail after 27 years, and raised her fist to the entire world, to a reception of hundreds of supporters and thousands around the globe. We had all prayed for that day, and that day came because of Winnie’s selfless battle against apartheid. 

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Winnie Madikizela-Mandela

The incredibly dignified and beautiful Winnie Mandela fought like no other, and I can truly say today that without her constant fight to keep her husband’s name and fight alive during those 27 years he spent in jail, nobody would have remembered Nelson Mandela, and the history of South Africa and the 1994 rainbow democracy would have been different. For it is because of Winnie Madikizela-Mandela that we all know Nelson Mandela to the extent that we know him today. While he was in jail 27 years, furthering and refining his law studies and other things, she was out there tirelessly working for the freedom of her people, keeping his name alive, and fighting the apartheid system. Winnie fought, and endured so many hardships: brutalized by the police, constantly forced to lose her job by the apartheid system, single-handedly raising her 2 children, repeatedly thrown in jail for her values, harassed, beaten, and humiliated by the system, her children constantly thrown out of school or denied admission because of who she was, exiled/banished to a very racist white-only community for years, and so much more. At one point she was thrown in jail for 17 months, and spent most of that time in solitary confinement, where she had no formal contact with another human being at all aside from her interrogators, among which were notorious torturers.

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Winnie Mandela, wearing her khaki slacks, helps bereaved comrades carry the coffin of an apartheid victim (SA History.com)

Part of what kept Winnie motivated during her banishment (exile), and even throughout her life, was her exceptional ability not to become demoralized and her inexhaustible tenacity to keep busy. While she was living out her banishment she established a local gardening collective; a soup kitchen; a mobile health unit; a day care center; an organisation for orphans and juvenile delinquents and a sewing club.

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Winnie Madikizela-Mandela at an ANC rally (Source: Reuters)

Sadly, while she waited 27 years for Nelson Mandela, it took him 4 years after coming out of prison to get rid of her! Really? Seriously? I guess women are supposed to keep the candle up and be loyal, while men are not held to the same standards. Any man who would have gone through 27+ years of what the apartheid system did to Winnie would have cracked, but not Winnie, she fought the fight, she fought for her people, and in 2009, the people re-elected her to the parliament in great fanfare. In January 2018, the University Council and University Senate of Makerere UniversityKampalaUganda, approved the award of an honorary Doctor of Laws (LLD) degree to Winnie Nomzano Madikizela-Mandela, in recognition of her fight against apartheid in South Africa. Julius Malema, the leader of the EFF, said last June:She [Winnie Madikizela-Mandela] should have been the first female president (of the country)‚ a real president who was not going to be a front for male leadership.”

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Winnie Madikizela-Mandela celebrating her 80th birthday surrounded by Julius Malema and Cyril Ramaphosa (Source: Timeslive.co.za)

Please read SA History who celebrated the life of OUR HEROINE the gorgeous and strong Winnnie Madikizela-Mandela, the mother of the nation (do not forget to read what I said about African Women and Revolution); also read her book, Part of My Soul Went with Him. We, Africans, have to write our own history, and celebrate our heroes. Winnie Madikizela-Mandela was a hero like none other. Without Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, the world would not have known Nelson Mandela! If anybody has earned their place in history and in the hearts of her people, it is definitely Winnie Madikizela-Mandela! She was a woman of principle, and of great love for her people! 

African Women and Revolution

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Winnie Mandela

Very often history books suffer from amnesia: they forget women’s contributions to revolutions. History acts as if the men had been all alone, as if only men were there, as if only men stood against injustice.

When people talk of the struggle for independence in Africa, and around the world, only the great men are cited. As one browses from country to country, only men are cited, as if women had been silent spectators. Do you think apartheid would have collapsed without the critical and vital input of women? Do you think without Winnie Mandela, Nelson Mandela’s name would have been anchored in our heads today? What do you think these women were doing while their husbands were in prison? History wants us to think that they were ‘just’ raising children as if that was not an enormous contribution already, but in the case of Winnie Mandela and countless others, they took up the fight, and were jailed, harassed, beaten, and humiliated by the system (some were even raped). Yet today, the world acclaims only the men! And when a woman raises too strong a voice, then she is vilified, told that she acts like a man, or is an ‘angry’ woman. How could you face injustice day after day, and just keep quiet? There comes a time when, as Bob Marley says, “You can fool some people some time, but you can’t fool all the people all the time…” people will rise up!”

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Mariam and Thomas Sankara, with their children

I am so sick of the saying, “behind every great man, there is a great woman.” I think it is again quite sexist, and should rather read, “ALONGSIDE EVERY GREAT MAN IS A GREAT WOMAN.” Raising children, and pumping somebody’s ego after a day’s fight, taking up the fights, and then keeping the men’s memory so that the world does not forget them, are no easy fit; these are extraordinary fits. Alongside Nelson Mandela, there is Winnie Mandela. Alongside Thomas Sankara, there is Mariam Sankara. Alongside Patrice Lumumba, there is Pauline Lumumba. Alongside Felix Moumié, there is Marthe MoumiéRosa Parks had to be defiant and sit in the front of the bus, for the movement to be taken over by Martin Luther King Jr.; without her part in the fight, there would have been no movement!

Ernest Ouandié, Marthe Moumié, and Abel Kingue in Geneva after Felix Moumié's death
Ernest Ouandié, Marthe Moumié, and Abel Kingue in Geneva after Felix Moumié’s death

It is our duty to remember this, and to claim it. The world and history wants us to think that men are the only ones in the world, when we know that 50% of the world’s population is female; men are not the only ones fighting for independence, liberation, freedom, revolution, democracy, … Can one make a revolution without the remaining 50%? NO! It is our duty to remember Women’s contributions to history, and stop the global historical amnesia!