APRIL 15, 2018


"It was not just a struggle in the corridors of power, but through people power at the grassroots," said U.N. Deputy Secretary General Amina Mohammed, in a gathering paying tribute to the legendary liberation fighter, adding that Winnie Mandela was the daughter of Africa who embodied the proverb: "When you strike a woman, you strike a rock."

When young lawyer, Nelson Mandela, was driving his old car near Soweto to his new law office, he noticed a very beautiful young woman waiting at the bus stop. Days later, when he dropped by the office of his partner Oliver Tambo, he found that same woman there. Months later, they got married. Since then, they were partners also in the struggle against apartheid in South Africa and she was particularly vocal in stressing the role of women in the fight for a dignified future.

During the two decades that her husband was in prison, Winnie Mandela carried the torch, remaining in constant touch with him, while maintaining the connection with the mobilized population. Soweto became an international system of fight against apartheid and her very personal involvement was an integral part of the movement.

Winnie Mandela was obviously controversial like most activists. She had her own friends and adversaries, selected aides, and harsh enemies, but she carried on with her life.

She was on the side of Nelson Mandela when he left prison. She stayed politically loyal despite the limitations placed on her. Even when her husband -- who became president of the Liberated South Africa -- felt that she had personally been unfaithful and married Graša Machel, the widow of former Mozambique President, Winnie remained within the family circle.

Winnie remained by his side as he became mortally ill. While politically distanced from executive power, she remained a popular symbol among men, women, young and old South Africans who recognized her pioneering role. When she passed away recently, at the age of 81, it was a day of national mourning and national remembrance. Winnie Mandela's contribution remains part of South Africa's liberation history.