As South Africa moves farther and farther away from the dreadful and dark years of apartheid, we are more frequently confronted with the passing of those who played critical roles in the struggle.
Today, we say goodbye to a woman who will be remembered as a feisty and vocal freedom fighter who did not hesitate to speak her mind; she certainly stirred lively debate wherever she went.
After the Rivonia Trial; she became Madiba’s public face during the 27 years of his imprisonment. She also sacrificed almost three decades of her life during which she and uTata should have been free to go about their daily lives as a normal family with human rights and civil liberties. But that was not this couple’s fate; they had a higher calling!
She was herself never deterred from playing the role she had to; which saw her go to jail several times and she found herself harshly exiled in Brandfort. Often were her children ripped from her arms whilst the security forces found reasons to apprehend her.
When one visits the cell in which she had been incarcerated at the Women’s Jail at Constitution Hill in Johannesburg, a chill runs down one’s spine when one grasps what a black woman’s life was worth in those years and what they had to endure in that miserable cage.
She sometimes made for a controversial figure and whether one agreed with her views or not, one must admire the fact that she never lacked the courage of her convictions. She called a spade a shovel; and then some. She was strong, passionate, articulate and charismatic. She did not shirk confrontation, but also had a sense of humour and a light-hearted side.
Ulale kakuhle Mama; I will personally miss you, but, on behalf of the United Democratic Movement I want to pass our condolences to the entire family and the extended family of the Madikizelas and the Mandelas, as well as the children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. We also pay our respects to the African National Congress as her lifelong political home.