Winnie Madikizela-Mandela: Revolutionary who kept the spirit of resistance alive

Winnie Madikizela-Mandela attends the 54th ANC National Conference at the NASREC Expo Centre in Johannesburg on December 16, 2017. PHOTO | MUJAHID SAFODIEN | AFP

What you need to know:

  • A stalwart of the African National Congress (ANC), Winnie Madikizela-Mandela nevertheless stands above, and at times outside, the party.
  • Her political power stemmed from the visceral connection that she was able to make between the everyday lives of black people in a racist state, and her own individual life.
  • Fearless in the face of torture, imprisonment, banishment and betrayal, she stood firm in her conviction that apartheid could be brought down.
  • In the tumult after the 1976 uprising, she built a bridge between different political factions. In the early 1990s, when Nelson Mandela was urging armed youths to give up violent strategies, it was Madikizela-Mandela they called on (along with the then leader of the South African Communist Party Chris Hani) to defend their change in tactics.

No other woman – in life and after – occupies the place that Winnie Madikizela-Mandela does in South African politics. A stalwart of the African National Congress (ANC), she nevertheless stands above, and at times outside, the party. Her iconic status transcends political parties and geographical boundaries, generations and genders. Poets have honoured her, writers have immortalised her and photographers have adored her.

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