By Thabo Mbeki
Once again we the people of South Africa are compelled by our own deep sense of gratitude and appreciation, our very own human values, to lower our revolutionary banners in respect and in honour of a fallen icon of the revolutionary struggle of the people of South Africa, Comrade Winnie Nomzamo Madikizela-Mandela.
In the words of the English poet, Thomas Gray, “full many a flower is born to blush unseen, and waste its sweetness on the desert air”.
And so the architects of racial oppression so foolishly believed that the strong and captivating fragrance of freedom and justice that burned in Winnie Madikizela-Mandela would “blush unseen and waste its sweetness” in the “desert air” of banishment in Brandfort.
This was nothing more than the wishful thinking of a regime intoxicated by the fading illusion and the mirage of permanence created by the sophistication of its weapons bought to support what was temporary power.
It is a matter of proud historical record that no amount of repression and brutality could extinguish the intense fire of freedom and justice which burned inside Madikizela-Mandela.
In comrade Winnie Mandela the people of South Africa have lost yet another giant and icon of the liberation struggle.
Even death itself cannot claim victory. It is shamed because it does not have the power to erase from memory, the dedication, the commitment, the willingness to sacrifice and strength of the human spirit to fight for the cause of freedom and justice which she represented.
To the people of South Africa we say – listen very carefully, pay attention and you will hear the waves beating against the wharf at the Cape Town harbour whispering the name of Winnie Mandela in solemn condemnation of those who sought to wreak havoc in our country by keeping the leaders of the people incarcerated on Robben Island.
Listen carefully to the wind.
Listen carefully as the wind blows sometimes softly in praise of the courage of Winnie Mandela, and often howling violently in anger against those who persecuted her simply for demanding freedom and dignity for her people.
Listen carefully, pay attention and you will hear the roar of the lions and the trumpeting of the elephants of the African savannah, and the earth-shattering sound deep in the jungles of Africa mourning the passing of Winnie Nomzamo Madikizela-Mandela.
Listen carefully, listen attentively and you will not miss the humming sound of the fire of the furnace as the ironsmith forges the spear that Winnie carried to pierce the heart of injustice and racial oppression.
Look up into the skies and you will see the clouds rushing to cover the face of the moon because a dark cloud has fallen over South Africa.
We call upon you, our very own people, to pay attention, to listen carefully and you will see and hear the mason’s chisel chipping away at marble and granite.
Watch carefully as the image of a raised, clenched and very human fist begins to emerge from the hard marble and granite.
Listen carefully as the steady chipping of the chisel echoes throughout the universe as the voice of Winnie Nomzamo Madikizela-Mandela shouting the battle cry – “Amandla”!
Listen very carefully and you will see the summer rain drops drop down as giant tears of Mother Nature mourning the passing of the heroine and exemplar of our struggle.
And still the southeasters blow strong on Table Mountain, howling in rage that we, the people of South Africa, must carve her name on monuments that will celebrate her pride and dignity!
In the words of the English poet, John Donne: “Death, be not proud, though some have called thee Mighty and dreadful, for thou art not so;… One short sleep past, we wake eternally And death shall be no more; Death, thou shalt die.”
As we say farewell to you Mam’ Winnie, we borrow the wise words of the bard, Mongane Wally Serote, which speak of the gift of hope and wisdom and the possibility for the recreation of broken pieces which you and other warrior daughters of the land gave us through your sacrifices.
“oh human warriors of Africa, our ancestors recreate our lives in the essence of our being and your own and in the depth of life which we must live as we claim ourselves through you and in your challenge of who we are not and cannot be MaBaard MaMxenge, MaMphosho, Lilian Ngoyi, Kate Molale, (Winnie Mandela), you are witness as you are warrior daughters of the land we are here in Hani’s spilled blood in Cassius Make and the millions of unknown graves of freedom fighters we are present in time and moment and life in vast spaces and places which is our life and hope and being enter to live life and recreate the broken pieces”
To the family of Mama Winnie Nomzamo Madikizela-Mandela, her comrades in the ANC and the people of South Africa as a whole, as the patron of the Thabo Mbeki Foundation, the board of trustees and staff members, we wish to express our profound and sincere condolences.
We can say without fear of contradiction that Mama Winnie now joins the Galaxy of leaders produced by the people of South Africa during the course of the liberation struggle.
These stars continue to shine with a bright radiance through the length and breadth of South Africa giving guidance and consolidating the vision of building a non-racial, non-sexist and egalitarian society in South Africa.
Indeed it is a fitting farewell to Mama Winnie Nomzamo Madikizela-Mandela to reiterate the words of the poet Mongane Wally Serote: “…from smouldering ashes of our bones the amber glows for in life tribulations give birth to hope and wisdom”.