Tue | Nov 20, 2018

Winnie forever free! - Anti-Apartheid campaigner fights ends at 81; leaders hail Mandela for her strength

Published:Tuesday | April 3, 2018 | 12:00 AMRomario Scott/Gleaner Writer
Winnie Madikizela-Mandela

The profound impact that Winnie Mandela had on some of the nation's leaders was reflected yesterday as they hailed the woman known for standing by the side of Nelson Mandela during a time when chaos reigned in South Africa and the fight was on to take down the brutal apartheid regime.

Her fight ended yesterday when she died at the age of 81 in her home country South Africa after ailing for some time.

Former Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller, who was part of a group that presented Mandela with the key to the city on a visit to Jamaica in 1991, said that she was saddened at the passing of the anti-apartheid advocate. The polarising figure was on a visit to the island with her husband Nelson Mandela on the occasion.

Yesterday, Simpson Miller described Winnie as a "warrior queen" and a "freedom fighter".

"Winnie is a symbol of strength to women around the world, and I will never forget her strength and defiance in the face of extraordinary oppression," the former prime minister said.

Prime Minister Andrew Holness, hailing Mandela as a champion for freedom, said that she was immortalised in the Jamaican sociocultural consciousness.

"Winnie is a part of us. We identified with her struggle, and we recorded songs about her. Jamaica embraced her not just as the wife of Nelson Mandela but, importantly, the mother of South Africa - a woman who was a freedom fighter and liberator in her own right," Holness said.

Other leaders paid tribute to the late freedom icon in the wake of her passing.

"Mother of the Nation. Winnie Mandela, you were relentless in the fight to free your people from apartheid. Rest now," Juliet Cuthbert said.

Minister of Culture, Entertainment, Sports and Gender Affairs Olivia 'Babsy' Grange said, "She inspired a movement that fought a repressive system of governance that saw black South Africans treated less than animals in their own country. Sleep well, dear Winnie".

The People's National Party Women's Movement, also paying tribute to the late advocate, said: "Her struggle was similar to the suffering of slave women who endured abuse and embarrassment but remained strong for their children and the men in their lives. She stood with the South African people and by Nelson's side for her entire life."

Mandela was a trained social worker when she met her future husband in 1957.

They had two daughters together.

The Mandelas were married for 38 years, although for almost three decades of that time, they were separated due to Nelson Mandela's long imprisonment.

It was Winnie who took the baton from her husband after he was jailed, becoming a potent international symbol of resistance to apartheid.

She was also subsequently jailed for her role in the struggle for justice.

She became the 'Mother of the Nation' to her supporters.

romario.scott@gleanerjm.com