by Maniza Naqvi
Winnie Mandela's tribute to the cause, to Nelson Mandela and to her own life is expressed in “Part of My Soul Went With Him.” (here). I read this back in 1986 and the title of the book says much about her: a remarkable, courageous and steadfast person. Tender and tough and above all loyal. I consider her story compelling.
Winnie Mandela was and is a hero to millions. Winnie Mandela kept Nelson Mandela present and amongst his people throughout his almost three decades of imprisonment. The mighty machinery of the Apartheid regime, sought to erase Nelson Mandela but she, Winnie Mandela, defeated them. In all those years, when even a photograph of him was unavailable to the people she kept his image vivid and present and vital. Nelson Mandela, prior to the West's and its media's embrace of him, was what he was to his people in a large part because of what Winnie Mandela presented him to be. She defined him. She carried out his principles. He did not renounce struggle by all means and she was his General in the battlefield carrying out his command. Body and soul. Other Generals. always men in other battles are decorated for their deeds of violence. Their excesses are forgiven and even lauded as part of the trauma and fog of war. There are others who are forgiven their transgressions given the context and go on to be Pope, Prime Minister or President.
Winnie Mandela met Nelson Mandela during his treason trial in Pretoria while he was already a prisoner. Nelson Mandela was above all others faithful and loyal to the cause of ending Apartheid. Winnie Mandela was married and faithful to that cause. And she is still faithful to it. They got married to each other during that trial on June 14, 1958. She was only 22 years old. Winnie Mandela lived most of her married life alone banned, imprisoned, interrogated, tortured and exiled and fighting a war against apartheid in the open battlefield. She was as imprisoned as Mandela and in many ways exposed to far more brutality than he was. She did not have the unwanted privilege which nevertheless, 27 years of imprisonment for not renouncing violence brought Nelson Mandela– that of an unblemished pristine existence of not committing violence himself. She was as imprisoned as he was though she was without a jail—and she followed the principle that Mandela refused to renounce—she lived as a soldier—fighting the battle in the open and treacherous battle field of the struggle against Apartheid under the racist regime that was South Africa.
This is a tribute to Winnie Mandela through the following videos: