President Cyril Ramaphosa has expressed his regret at how struggle icon Winnie Madikizela-Mandela was treated while she was still alive, likening her experience to that of Jesus Christ.
Ramaphosa said when he and other ANC top six leaders went to pay their respects to Winnie’s family the day after she died, it was her daughter Zenani Mandela-Dlamini’s response that would leave a lasting impression on him.
He said Zenani, overcome by emotion, had said that her mother had suffered and had a very difficult life. “Then she burst into tears.”
“Zenani’s tears revealed Mam Winnie’s wounds,” he said.
He said it brought to mind the moment when Jesus said to the apostle Thomas “‘put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side’.”
“In essence, Jesus was saying to the apostle: ‘Touch my wounds’. During this period of mourning many South Africans have been touching Mam Winnie’s wounds. It ought to have been done long ago. For she wore the gaping wounds of her people.
“She had been left to tend her wounds on her own for most of her life. Left alone to fend for herself only caused her more pain. But she touched our wounds all the time,” said Ramaphosa.
Ramaphosa implored the nation to continue to “touch” Winnie’s wounds to bring her healing but to also to honour her by reflecting on its own wounds so that it too can heal.
“As we continue to touch her wounds, we must be brave enough to share her life and legacy across our society and with the people she loved. Shortly before her death, we had a conversation about her concerns, her worries and her wishes.
He said Madikizela-Mandela had spoken of a “deep desire for unity and the renewal not only of the movement that she loved dearly, but of the nation.”
Speaking of her formidable nature Ramaphosa described Madikizela-Mandela as “proud, defiant and articulate,” adding that she defied the very premise of apartheid ideology and male superiority.
“Loudly and without apology, she spoke truth to power. And it was those in power who, insecure and fearful, visited upon her the most vindictive and callous retribution”.
The president said although the late struggle hero had passed away, she was not gone as her spirit of defiance and triumph lived on in everyone. “She inspires our actions. She guides our struggles. She remains our conscience. May her soul rest in eternal peace. May her spirit live forever.”