Heritage bound to Winnie’s early life

2017-03-19 06:02
The Ludeke Methodist Church, where Winnie Madikizela-Mandela and Nelson Mandela got married, in Mbizana is set to become a national heritage site. Pictures: Lubabalo Ngcukana

The Ludeke Methodist Church, where Winnie Madikizela-Mandela and Nelson Mandela got married, in Mbizana is set to become a national heritage site. Pictures: Lubabalo Ngcukana

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The National Heritage Council SA (NHC) is working in the village where Winnie Madikizela-Mandela was born and on the church where her marriage to former president Nelson Mandela was blessed in Bizana, Eastern Cape, to make them national heritage sites.

The NHC and the SA Heritage Resources Agency recently conducted site visits and assessments at Ludeke Methodist Church, where Madikizela-Mandela and Madiba got married in 1958, to measure restoration requirements so that they could be upgraded to tourism standards.

Madikizela-Mandela was born in Mbongweni, a neighbouring village that, at the time, did not have a church building of its own. It has also been proposed that a museum be built in Mbongweni in her honour.

It has been proposed that Ludeke Primary School, where liberation stalwart Oliver Tambo, who was part of the Mandela entourage at the wedding, also be upgraded and declared part of the heritage site in Ludeke village. Tambo was born in neighbouring Nkantolo village, which did not have a primary school at the time.

The community believes the heritage sites would not only bring pride to the people in surrounding villages, but would stimulate economic hubs that would, in turn, help create much-needed jobs through tourism, among other things.

Advocate Sonwabile Mancotywa, chief executive officer of the NHC, said it planned to restore the sites and launch them in September, which would coincide with Madikizela-Mandela’s birthday celebrations.

Mancotywa said the declaration of new heritage sites would also require the upgrading of the road infrastructure to Ludeke and Mbongweni.

Throughout the world, wherever great icons such as Martin Luther King and Marcus Garvey were born, governments ensured there were many economic activities in place, which empowered local communities.

He said the council was also working on a legacy project with Walter Sisulu University and the department of social development to honour Madikizela-Mandela appropriately. They proposed that she be bestowed with an honorary doctorate in recognition of her contribution to the country’s liberation efforts, as well as for becoming the first black social worker in South Africa. All these aspects will form part of broader plans for her birthday in Mbizana this year.

“We spoke to Mama Winnie. She expressed her own wishes and concerns about the places where she was born and went to school, and why they are very important,” he said.

City Press visited the Ludeke Methodist Church, founded by the Reverend Samuel Clark in 1904. Now under the Reverend Lungisa Mlamli, a modern and much bigger building next to the old one is used for church services. The old building is still intact, but its interior will require a substantial face-lift.

Nombulelo Faku, a church steward and Ludeke resident, welcomed the news of the restoration of the church for tourism purposes. She said the church had a rich history that preceded Madikizela-Mandela and Madiba’s wedding.

“The first high school and first clinic in this area were founded by this church under Reverend Clark. The fact that Tata Madiba and Mama Winnie also got married [in the area] is a bonus. OR Tambo also did his first grade here. This will really inspire our children,” Faku said.

Sandisiwe Ndamase, 19, a Grade 12 pupil at Mzamba High School in Ludeke village, said she wanted to follow in the footsteps of her role model – Madikizela-Mandela – by getting a degree in social work.

“Mbizana is a rural place and nobody ever imagined that the first black social worker and first lady of a democratic South Africa would come from here, yet it happened,” she said.

Madikizela-Mandela’s daughter Zindzi and grandson Zondwa could not be reached for comment.

Mandla Mandela, Madiba’s eldest grandson, said: “I am happy for them. Unfortunately, I don’t have much to say. You can speak to her children or grandchildren.”

Read more on:    nelson mandela  |  winnie ­madikizela-mandela

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