Struggle stalwart's life is being reduced to a political football

Winnie Madikizela-Mandela
Winnie Madikizela-Mandela
Image: Getty Images

Will the real Winnie Madikizela-Mandela please stand up?

During this period of national mourning a lot of women have moved from the premise that declaring "I am Winnie ..." immediately internalises her spirit.

And they have taken this assumption as a political stance.

Thus, many women proceed from the premise that radical political commitment is a loose expression for "'working within the [corporate] system" to make it as a symbol of individual success.

We need to revive the culture of umrabulo - political education cells - to close the gap between the true identity of who Mama Winnie was and what some think she was now that she is dead.

Being Madikizela-Mandela is not about being a nice girl wearing weaves, driving fancy cars to malls and doing endless shopping for new dresses, bags and shoes.

It is a state of mind and, above all, a self-sacrificing way of life.

Madikizela-Mandela has done it and it can be repeated by those who wish to follow in her footsteps. It is more than a passing fad during the national period of mourning.

Salute to the few women who truly wish to uphold her legacy. They exist, however few they may be.

They shall be judged by their track record and experience of defending and demanding dignity for the poor and standing up for human rights.

It is a devastating judgement on the contemporary level of political consciousness and commitment when some think attending a night vigil or wearing political gear makes women radical activists overnight.

It reduces the life and legacy of Madikizela-Mandela to a one-night stand for some women to feel good. Worse, it will feed the supremacist patriarchs and capitalists with the illusion that all is well in the land of inequality and injustice.

They will sleep better knowing that by April 27 2018, women will go back to their self-indulgent lives in a racist, capitalist society where they are preoccupied with and judge each other by the kind of weave they wear.

Madikizela-Mandela did not become the character she was at 35 years of age.

This radical shift was something she chose after bearing witness to and experiencing the injustice and inequality black people were subjected to.

The brutality of apartheid and neocolonialism is unrelenting.

It is hypocritical for any person to think that attending a concert, performing on stage or dressing up in black for a day will transform them into a Madikizela-Mandela-like figure. It is an illusion.

This distorts the requirements for commitment to human rights.

The worse thing about what is under way during the few days of national mourning is the potential to disfigure the political character of those who believe the lie.

We need to reiterate that being Winnie Madikizela-Mandela is not an overnight thing.

In the middle of mourning Madikizela-Mandela, it is becoming increasingly obvious that women now lack a clear radical, resounding voice.

Worse, there is fragmentation at a political level.

The EFF invoke her name in defence of their vision of radicalism.

The ANC Women's League use her, through the "I am Winnie Madikizela-Mandela" campaign, to authenticate their own politics.

The ANC have dug up her legacy to pave their own ambitions.

In so many ways, Madikizela-Mandela's life has been reduced to a political football and a lead character in a neat narrative in opposing and fighting apartheid.

Very few who claim her name mention that her premise was the unconditional return of the land and the fair sharing of its wealth.

There are celebrated writers that portray her as a glamorous girl who lived the high life.

This whole celebration will have to be challenged at some point.

A genuine reckoning with the legacy of Madikizela-Mandela will demand that women ask: why has the house in Brandfort not been transformed into a museum?

What will happen to Winnie Madikizela-Mandela and her legacy now she is dead?

Yes, we must appreciate that the struggle today is much more difficult because women have access to power, position, influence and money.

It is more difficult today because, generally, black people have become part of a history and system that Madikizela-Mandela fought against.

The inequality gap in the black community is the biggest in the country. Yet today, with all the power, position and money, the voice of women is mute.

Will the true custodians of the spirit of Winnie Madikizela-Mandela please stand up?