Mashaba apologises to Mam Winnie's daughters for overdue honour by City of Johannesburg

The late Winnie Madikizela-Mandela.
The late Winnie Madikizela-Mandela.
Image: Getty Images

"Zenani and Zindzi‚ it is indeed shameful that we had to wait until the passing of Mam’uWinnie to recognise her for her contribution to this country’s freedom."

With these words‚ mayor Herman Mashaba confirmed the conferring of the Freedom of the City to Winnie Madikizela-Mandela at a special council sitting on Tuesday. Mashaba‚ who knew Madikizela-Mandela in her lifetime‚ said to the late icon’s daughters: "You‚ more than most‚ know that‚ after all she had been through in her life‚ this was the least we could do to honour her memory and extend our gratitude for her many sacrifices."

He added: "This honour is long overdue."

Mashaba urged people to put aside political differences to tackle the socio-economic challenges the city and the country face.

"I fear that‚ as we continue to see each other as enemies or competitors for the scant resources available‚ we will be distracted from the bigger objective of the sort of true liberation Winnie longed for – that of political and most importantly‚ economic liberation."

Mashaba said almost 900‚000 people in the City of Johannesburg were unemployed.

"This honour is long overdue."
Mayor Herman Mashaba

"In other words‚ 1 in 3 people residing in the City of Johannesburg are denied the means to earn a living and struggle on a daily basis to take care of themselves and their families.

"This is a matter that will require us to put our party political affiliations aside‚ forget our political ideologies and combine our heads to find solutions to the ticking time-bomb that is youth unemployment.

"We must agree that our public education system is broken and must be rebuilt in order to give our children a glimmer of hope that they can become competitive members of the global community. We must dedicate the lion’s share of our national resources towards fixing our schools and training our teachers to better groom our children into tomorrow’s leaders."

Endorsing free‚ quality education‚ he said: "What is needed is the political will to do away with nice-to-have projects and to push these resources towards building our children’s future."

Mashaba also revealed that‚ in addition to the freedom of the city and a proposal to name the council chambers after her‚ Madikizela-Mandela’s family has requested that the city host the Winnie Madikizela-Mandela Children’s Parliament‚ at least once a year‚ in its Chambers.

"Should Council accede to this request‚ it would only be proper to host the Children’s Parliament on September 26 – the date of Mrs Winnie Madikizela-Mandela’s birthday. An advocate for the rights of children and the youth – especially since the 1976 Student Uprisings – hosting a Children’s Parliament in her honour and in these Chambers would be a fitting tribute to a freedom fighter who has been betrayed by the beneficiaries of the freedom she also fought for‚" said Mashaba.

The mayor defended Madikizela-Mandela’s legacy in the anti-apartheid struggle‚ despite the subsequent controversies around her.

"Although checkered‚ her life was that of an individual who was largely shaped by the harsh reality she was forced to endure – all by her lonesome.

"Winnie was a woman of her time. There is no doubt that many had all but forgotten‚ and were largely unappreciative of‚ the role Winnie Madikizela-Mandela played in shaping our history. In the 1960s and much of the 1970s‚ when the ANC and other liberation movements were banned and forced underground‚ it was Winnie who kept the flame of liberation burning ... When the apartheid security machinery was at its most supreme‚ crushing every sign of resistance‚ and hope for freedom was fading faster by the day‚ it was Winnie who‚ through her defiance‚ taught us to persevere."

He concluded: "Winnie Madikizela-Mandela deserves much higher honours than the ones we are proposing to bestow upon her but it is the least we can do in appreciation of a life lived for the upliftment of all of us."

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