uMam’ Winnie, a mother to all

In my work as an applied drama and theatre practitioner, I work with young people, especially young girls, to help them with personal growth, self-love and self-esteem. Through my work, I try to bring about some change in marginalised communities.

One day I had the opportunity to meet uMam’ Winnie [Madikizela-Mandela] at her house. I went there and had a one-on-one with her. As we sat there, she held my hands and told me that the work we do is not glamorous and not about status. That it is not for everyone because few people would want to go into these communities.

But she told me I should continue doing this work because it’s my calling. Her holding my hands and talking about the work I do like that was so, so powerful.

When I heard about her death, it really felt like there was a hole in my heart. I couldn’t stop crying. But with her death she has given the torch to me, to us, to continue shining that light of hope on young women to empower them. Because Mama was all about self-love.

The big thing about her was that she loved us all. Your gender didn’t matter. Your sexual orientation didn’t matter. How you looked didn’t matter. If she had met you before and saw you again, she’d embrace you. And when she said “my child”, you just knew that she meant it.


We were her children.

I remember when Caster [Semenya] was being insulted and stuff, Mama was one of the few women who showed up for Caster, who stood there and said: “My child, you are beautiful as you are.” Gay, lesbian, straight, whatever … it didn’t matter. We were all her children. — Thokozani Ndaba, 42, as told to Carl Collison, the Other Foundation’s Rainbow Fellow at the Mail & Guardian 

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Carl Collison
Carl Collison
Carl Collison is a freelance journalist who focuses primarily on covering queer-related issues across Africa
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