Madikizela-Mandela's legacy can't die, her work is unfinished

Winnie Madikizela-Mandela
Image: Veli Nhlapo

Mama Winnie Madikizela-Mandela epitomised the Struggle of black people.

Throughout her long political life she championed the just cause to preserve the dignity of black people.

This she did at the height of the apartheid era, resulting in the apartheid regime banishing her to Brandfort in Free State. And this activity continued under the democratic South Africa in 1994 and beyond.

Madikizela-Mandela was brave. She created history. She was a show-stopper with a beautiful smile. She created a rich history of a woman who stood up against anyone who ill-treated black people.

Her achievements weighed far more than the fact that she was married to Nelson Mandela. Her marriage to him did not define her life or her politics. Her fights with the apartheid government when Mandela was in jail kept the Mandela name alive.

Her raising her children alone when Mandela was in jail made her strong. Mandela left them as babies. When he was released, they were adults.

She was a social worker by profession and when she moved into the political space she carried that with her.

It is interesting that she passed away two weeks after five-year-old Lumka Mketwa, a pupil at Luna Primary School in Bizana, died after falling into a pit toilet.

Madikizela-Mandela hails from Bizana and I can only imagine her reaction on hearing the sad news.

She may not have met Mketwa but in 2011 she spoke about the government's failure to implement good sanitation facilities for black communities, especially in the rural areas.

Mketwa's death indicates that the Struggle that Madikizela-Mandela waged for black people has not been won.

When she expressed shock at the state of sanitation facilities, Madikizela-Mandela was part of a team appointed by then human settlements minister Tokyo Sexwale to look into the state of sanitation in the country.

Clearly, the findings of the report have not been implemented.

The report revealed that several municipalities around the country were failing to eradicate pit toilets.

At the time, after visiting the Eastern Cape, she said her team would "leave no stone unturned" to improve the lives of victims of poor service delivery.

"We want to assure you that this task team will spare no one. We shall investigate these irregularities and malpractices hampering the implementation of the programme," Madikizela-Mandela said.

She has been accused of defying the ANC. However, when requested to help improve the lives of poor people, she obliged as she did by helping Sexwale.

Despite the negative attention she received, she remained outspoken in and outside the ANC, talking truth about wrongdoings.

Her work to bring dignity to black people cannot die with her.

Her legacy should continue.

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