We have lost a mother who shared everything with us

Winnie Madikizela-Mandela and Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula with ANC Women's League members
Winnie Madikizela-Mandela and Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula with ANC Women's League members
Image: Antonio Muchave

The news of the passing of Mama Winnie Madikizela-Mandela found me unprepared and unwilling to accept the reality of such a grave tragedy for our people and our country.

For many of us who have worked closely with her and got to know and learn from her, the news has been devastating and it had not been possible to provide an immediate reaction.

This is because in Mama Winnie, we have all lost a mother who shared everything with us.

Through her dedication to the struggle of our people, she had become the true embodiment of selflessness.

It is this spirit of selflessness that has inspired many to emulate her, to know that nothing less than total submission to the cause of our people will bring about our freedom, even if this may come at a great personal cost, like it did with her.

In giving everything, Mama Winnie also lost everything.

She didn't just campaign for the plight of the women, she lived this reality herself, every day, side by side with them. Whether it be in Soweto, prison and police stations, Brandfort and in the many informal settlements, Mama was a friend of the poor, the downtrodden and the true voice for the plight of oppressed women.

Trained as a social worker, she was a pioneer in community development. This work inspired us and gave us hope, even those of us who had been campaigning for the plight of our women while in exile.

It was therefore a great honour for us, upon our return to the country, to have been integrated with her in the first team that brought together leaders from the women's section and those from the internal machinery, tasked with resuscitating structures of the ANC Women's League in the country.

It was a moment that was followed by the most difficult and testing period for Mama, both personally and politically.

She bore the brunt of her own history of militancy against the apartheid regime. As the dawn of our democracy drew nearer, Mama faced the many tests in her life with that same militancy and resilience, but most of all her confidence and trust in the people she served.

As a mother and a wife, her dedication to the Struggle cost her her family and brought immense suffering to her children. Like many women in this country, she had to balance the great demands of her commitment and the responsibilities to her children as a mother.

In 2003, after we were elected as the new generation of leaders to take the baton from their generation, Mama not only offered her support and guidance, but also her continued involvement in the work of the structures of the Women's League.

I am personally grateful for the support she gave me during my term as a leader, having stepped in to succeed her.

As she finally journeys to the afterlife, many of our people and many women across the world will feel a sense of loss.

I pray that the strength and resilience she has shown in life can encourage us to face our challenges in a similar manner, so that, even in death she can continue to inspire us to the belief that it is possible to beat adversity.

Wena Nomzamo, Zanyiwe, MaNgutyana, Ntombi ebele lide, Mother of the Nation. Lala ngoxolo Ntombenkulu. Isithonga sokuwa kwakho sivakele.

Rest in peace Mama.