The grandmotherly neighbour vs the guerilla fighter: Two sides of Winnie

MK military veterans and the ANCYL representatives gather outside Winnie Madikizela-Mandela’s home. Picture: Zamayirha Peter
MK military veterans and the ANCYL representatives gather outside Winnie Madikizela-Mandela’s home. Picture: Zamayirha Peter

Living next door to Winnie Madikizela-Mandela was great. She was a caring grandmotherly figure who opened her home to her neighbours and allowed their children to swim in their pool.

On the other hand she was a fierce militant, an inspiration for young fighters during the apartheid days.

Two sides of Mama Nomzamo Winnie Madikizela-Mandela emerged this week, as people made their way to her Orlando West home to pay tribute to her.

Some were her neighbours. Some were politicians. Others were members of the greater Johannesburg region of the African National Congress Youth League and the Mkhonto weSizwe (MK) military veterans.

Juniour Mandela (his combat name), the regional chairperson of the MK military veterans’ associations in greater Johannesburg said: “Today we are raising the flag; when a hero or heroine dies we lift the flag.

"Mama Winnie was a member of the MK military veterans association of Zone 11. She established it. She played a major role during the armed struggle. Thina [us] the generation of young lions, the death-defying generation, she inspired us to join MK.”

Mandela added that: “She was like glue for the pillars of the armed struggle. She played a major role. That is why most of the guerrillas, who came inside the country to train people, came through Mama. That is why we call her the chief of staff or commander.”

Mandela said Mama Winnie wasn’t an ordinary member or like other ANC members.

“While others kept quiet she was vocal. She didn’t fear anything and that is where we took our bravery from.

"The family knew she was part of the armed struggle, but I cannot speak on the operations she did because it’s not the right time. The right time will come.”

Tefo Raphadu, the youth league’s regional task team convener in greater Johannesburg, said the call for the night vigil was made by the youth league.

“We needed to converge here and pass on our condolences and mourn the passing of this great fighter. All of us are here to mourn and unite in our mourning. We are not here in response to the Economic Freedom Fighters who came yesterday. We were here from the onset when we heard Mama has passed. The EFF only came today to pay their homage ... they have a right to, we are here to honour our icon.”

Raphadu added that, “As the youth league, we take away [from her life] her resilience, fighting spirit, love and her caring nature. She welcomed everyone who came to her house and she was there to offer advice to who ever wanted.

“Some of the things we are fighting for include the right to learn and fee-free education, the scrapping of historical debt as well as academic exclusions in institutions of higher learning and holding the ANC accountable to its resolutions.”

Raphadu said: “The number of people who came here are an indication that we are doing a good job and even those who were in the closet are now coming out as members of the ANC.”

The rainy Tuesday evening didn’t keep away the neighbours and their children who told City Press about their memories at Mama’s house – swimming and drinking with mama.

“I knew mama. I won’t say we chilled with her regularly, but she would sometimes come out and chat to us or drink with us, and sometimes we would go to her house and play.

"She was very friendly and allowed us to swim and, when we were younger, she would let us play with the fish,” Rivoningo Light Makhabela (21), who lives in the house opposite Mama’s, told City Press.

“I learnt of her passing from the bodyguard; he is a friend of mine. I felt sad because we now will not be able to swim ... During her birthday, she’d call the neighbours. She never closed her doors to us.

"Her birthday was the only time we drank expensive things like Fat Bastard [wine] and ate nice meat, and she’d cook for us.”

Nhlanhla Duma (18) told City Press: “We started seeing less of her when she started visiting the hospital. News of her death was tragic for us because she was like our own grandmother she never gave us the impression of being better than us.

"She was one with us.”

We live in a world where facts and fiction get blurred
In times of uncertainty you need journalism you can trust. For only R75 per month, you have access to a world of in-depth analyses, investigative journalism, top opinions and a range of features. Journalism strengthens democracy. Invest in the future today.
Subscribe to News24


Read the digital editions of City Press here.
Read now
Voting Booth
The CCMA has ruled that the dismissal of an employee for refusing to be vaccinated against Covid-19 was fair. What are your thoughts?
Please select an option Oops! Something went wrong, please try again later.
It is her right to refuse
21% - 10 votes
She is a risk to others
55% - 26 votes
Mandatory vaccination ?
11% - 5 votes
No to mandatory vaxxing
13% - 6 votes