In quotes: On what would have been her 83rd birthday we reflect on the powerful words from Winnie Mandela

Winnie Madikizela Mandela at her 80th birthday celebrations. Credit: Elmond Jiyane, GCIS
Winnie Madikizela Mandela at her 80th birthday celebrations. Credit: Elmond Jiyane, GCIS
Elmond Jiyane, GCIS

“I’m Zanyiwe Madikizela, that’s who I am”, she says in an archival footage compilation by the African Oral History Archive.

In her lifetime she has worn many hats, has held different leadership roles, official and unofficial, been called multiple names.

Mam’Winnie, as she has been affectionately known by many South Africans, has been very deliberate about telling the world who she is and not the other way around.

On her day of birth, where she would have been 83 years old in 2019, we reflect on the powerful words from Nomzamo Winifred Zanyiwe Madikizela Mandela that are as fiery today as when she said them.

READ MORE: Women honour Mama Winnie Madikizela-Mandela

On the treatment she received from the apartheid government

“Yes, I was afraid in the beginning. But then there is only so much they can do to you. After that it is only death. They can only kill you, and as you see, I am still here.”

"When they threw me with water to wake me up, it didn’t matter that I was soaking wet. I got up, I was so refreshed and I started fighting all over again."

On her identity

“The name Winnie was beginning to be forgotten by even my family, everything I said was ‘Mandela’s wife’. I became a nobody. Here I am now losing myself and being absorbed into this name. Yeah I am married but I am still Winnie.”

“The reason why I fought as hard as I did in Brandford I wanted it known that it was Winnie Mandela and not Mandela’s wife, and that it was a woman. And I would take on the enemy, as much as they oppressed me, I decided I will fight them to the last drop of my blood and I will show them that women are going to bring about change in South Africa – and we did.”

READ MORE: "An aunt to me... this is what I will always remember about Mama Winnie Madikizela-Mandela"

“The overwhelming majority of women accept the patriarchy and protect it. Traditionally, the violated wife offloads her aggression onto the daughter-in-law. Men dominate women through the agency of women themselves.”

A word to those who hold South Africa’s democracy

“It is an individual choice you make in your life to make a difference, it is an individual choice to understand that my neighbour is not as privileged as I am. Extend your heart to those around you.”

On her and her mother’s style

“It’s just my only obsession, like my mother. Those ancient times my mother loved pearls.”

Sources: African Oral History Archive, SA History, Huffington Post.

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