Opinion

Death of the 'Mother of the Nation' reveals full-blown hypocrisy of those who would drag her down

08 April 2018 - 00:00

The death of Winnie Madikizela-Mandela has posed some difficult questions for our nation, including how we traverse the next chapters of history sans the guidance of the iconic generation of political leaders who delivered our freedom.
Madikizela-Mandela was the last of the gigantic figures of the liberation struggle. Our country is unlikely ever again to produce leaders with their mettle and dedication to the rights of others.
A more immediate question we ought to grapple with is why our society holds people to different standards. In death, as was the case for most of her life, some people found it easy to demonise Madikizela-Mandela, trumpeting her "wrongs" and "flaws" under the pretext of paying tribute to her.
People who find it difficult to admit that apartheid was a crime against humanity and that National Party leaders like FW de Klerk were responsible for deaths and human rights violations perpetrated by their security apparatus have no qualms about brandishing accusations against her.
De Klerk himself had the audacity to say in a statement issued by his foundation that there was a "dark side of her reputation and history", but added charitably: "which one does not delve into at a time such as this".This "condolence message" came from the person who literally had big sections of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission final report blacked out to hide his role in apartheid atrocities.
But even in the ANC, some people find it necessary besmirch Madikizela-Mandela's legacy using the very information that their former enemies weaponised against her.
The apartheid regime ran a "dirty tricks" operation against her that went as far as planting disinformation in the media that she had a drinking problem and a "heavy sex drive".
Madikizela-Mandela was a powerful force against the apartheid machinery through her unfaltering defiance and commanding authority when the ANC's leadership was indistinct within the country. So the white male-driven security apparatus thought it best to use vile sexist and racist propaganda to shame and discredit her.
The security branch contributed to the break-up of her marriage by implicating her in the death of child activist Stompie Seipei. Nelson Mandela was distraught over the allegations, and they were a tipping point in a dysfunctional marriage.
In the wake of Madikizela-Mandela's death, the allegations about the criminal activities of her Mandela United Football Club and Seipei's murder have again cropped up, as some people feel it "dishonest" to exclude these from her tributes. This is despite there being no evidence of her involvement in Seipei's murder. Perhaps the matter can be laid to rest now that the first commissioner of the SAPS, George Fivaz, has confirmed that the allegations were baseless.But the bottom of the barrel continues to be scraped. One quote by Madikizela-Mandela featured in obituaries in newspapers across the world and on social media: "Together, hand in hand, with our matches and our necklaces, we shall liberate this country."
The words sound inflammatory and seem to advocate extrajudicial killings. But clutching your pearls in 2018 about a statement made at the height of war is ridiculous.
When Madikizela-Mandela uttered those words 32 years ago, it was during a state of emergency when the apartheid security forces were deliberately fomenting violence in townships and turned comrades against each other.
In any case, nobody can reasonably argue that the democratic transition would have been possible without the use of force.
While many leaders advocated violent resistance, it seems some people still find it objectionable that Madikizela-Mandela was at the forefront. There seems to be greater antipathy towards her than anyone else that fought for freedom.
Is it because there was an expectation that after Mandela's imprisonment she would have withdrawn into a life of seclusion and emerged on his release as a dutiful and faithful wife?Is our society's problem really that she had desires when her husband was locked away for 27 years? Almost all of this country's most senior political leaders (all male), even dating back to De Klerk, were deviant in their marriages, although some were better at hiding it. One of them was elected president, twice, after multiple instances of infidelity and facing trial for rape.
In a world were the male equivalent of the term slut-shaming still has to be invented, perhaps the double standard is not surprising.
Maybe the world would have been kinder to Madikizela-Mandela had she been more "womanly" in her contribution to the liberation struggle. Perhaps there would have been more respect on her death had she just played a supporting role to the men instead of becoming the face of resistance within the country.
At a time when people rally around a fake champion of "radical economic transformation" to explain away his criminal charges, the fact that Madikizela-Mandela was a consistent crusader for true black empowerment and the rights of ordinary South Africans is not fully appreciated.
The Mother of the Nation died this week and our society revealed its hypocrisy.

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