Slice of Life: Guarding the legacy uMam’Winnie

I feel proud to be a security guard here, even if the house is burnt and damaged, because I’m guarding uMam’Winnie’s legacy and her memory. Maybe 10 people come here a month; they come to see the house and only ask me for permission to take pictures. Sometimes they ask about uMam’Winnie’s comrades, and I take them to see her friends. I know them all. But what I have to be careful of is the ­nyaope boys.

I was born here in Brandfort and grew up here. I’ve known about uMam’Winnie ever since I was a child. We used to sing those songs, freedom songs, about her while passing her house. Some of my friends were scared to speak to her because their parents told them not to. But now I’m happy to be working at this house we used to run past when we were small.

In fact, in every job I’ve done I’ve been connected to uMam’Winnie. Before I started working here I was the security at the orphanage around the corner that she started.

When the orphanage stopped paying for security, I became unemployed. During that time I used to walk past here and see how the clinic and house were being destroyed. Every day it was a little bit worse.

Then in December the same people from the orphanage hired me to be a security guard here. I don’t get much, ja, but at least it’s a job and I can be proud because I’m guarding uMam’Winnie’s old house.

In January after I started, the nyaope boys came here again to make a fire or do those drugs. I was waiting at the gate and they didn’t see me. One of them walked in and I knocked him down. Yho, they ran away so fast. I shouted at them: “Hey, tsotsi! Do you know whose house this is?”

These nyaope boys will never come here now. They know me and I know them, their parents or siblings. They won’t touch this house again. — Matshidiso Mpopetsi, 38, a security guard at the Winnie Madikizela-Mandela House and Museum in Brandfort, Free State, as told to Govan Whittles

These are unprecedented times, and the role of media to tell and record the story of South Africa as it develops is more important than ever. But it comes at a cost. Advertisers are cancelling campaigns, and our live events have come to an abrupt halt. Our income has been slashed.

The Mail & Guardian is a proud news publisher with roots stretching back 35 years. We’ve survived thanks to the support of our readers, we will need you to help us get through this.

To help us ensure another 35 future years of fiercely independent journalism, please subscribe.

Govan Whittles

Govan Whittles is a general news and political multimedia journalist at the Mail & Guardian. Born in King William's Town in the Eastern Cape, he cut his teeth as a radio journalist at Primedia Broadcasting. He produced two documentaries and one short film for the Walter Sisulu University, and enjoys writing about grassroots issues, national politics, identity, heritage and hip-hop culture.


Stella set to retain her perks

Communication minister will keep Cabinet perks during her two months of special leave

Not a sweet deal, Mister

Mister Sweet workers say they will not risk their health, and the lives of others, to continue producing and packaging confectionaries

Covid-19 grounds Nigeria’s medical tourists

The country’s elites, including the president, travelled abroad for treatment but now they must use the country’s neglected health system

Nehawu launches urgent court bid over protective gear for health...

The health workers’ union says the government has rebuffed its attempts to meet about mitigating risks to workers

Press Releases

Rahima Moosa Hospital nursing college introduces no-touch facial recognition access system

The new system allows the hospital to enrol people’s faces immediately, using artificial intelligence, and integrates easily with existing access control infrastructure, including card readers and biometrics

Everyone’s talking about it. Even Kentucky

Earlier this year South African fried chicken fast-food chain, Chicken Licken®, launched a campaign for their wallet-friendly EasyBucks® meals, based on the idea of ‘Everyone’s talking about it.’

New energy mix on the cards

REI4P already has and will continue to yield thousands of employment opportunities

The online value of executive education in a Covid-19 world

Executive education courses further develop the skills of leaders in the workplace

Sisa Ntshona urges everyone to stay home, and consider travelling later

Sisa Ntshona has urged everyone to limit their movements in line with government’s request

SAB Zenzele’s special AGM postponed until further notice

An arrangement has been announced for shareholders and retailers to receive a 77.5% cash payout

20th Edition of the National Teaching Awards

Teachers are seldom recognised but they are indispensable to the country's education system

Awards affirm the vital work that teachers do

Government is committed to empowering South Africa’s teachers with skills, knowledge and techniques for a changing world