April 10, 2018

Mother of the Nation: What is Winnie Madikizela-Mandela's legacy?

The Stream explores the life and times of South Africa's iconic "Mama Winnie".

"Revolutionary", "rebel", "Mother of the Nation" - these are just some of the terms used to describe Winnie Madikizela-Mandela. The iconic South African politician and anti-apartheid activist died on 2 April at the age of 81, sparking debate about her life and legacy.

For many South Africans, Madikizela-Mandela is a hero - a warrior whose indomitable fight against oppression positioned her as "a pillar" of the movement to end apartheid. To her critics, Madikizela-Mandela was a divisive figure - a corrupt "bully" who was willing to engage in criminal activity to achieve her goals. But others, like political analyst Lebohang Pheko, say she was a complex figure who lived in "difficult times".

"People can be all sorts of things at all sorts of moments and often the best and worst of us happens concurrently. The attempts to then force us into a binary of a person, being either virtuous or completely sinful, is neither true", she says. "The worst we can do to her is to force her into a box in her death because she was a woman who transgressed."

So, what will be the enduring legacy of "Mama Winnie's" activism? 

Ahead of Winnie Madikizela-Mandela's memorial on Wednesday, The Stream speaks with South Africans - including people who knew her - to learn how her work helped to end apartheid and influenced the country's political landscape. 

On this episode of The Stream, we speak with:

Lebo Mashile @lebomashile
Actress and Performance Poet

Pascale Lamche
Filmmaker and Director, Winnie

Nomzamo Mbatha @NomzamoMbatha
Actress and UNHCR Ambassador

Lebohang Pheko @Liepollo9
Political Economist, Trade Collective 


Read more:
Who was South Africa's Winnie Mandela? - Al Jazeera
'One of our pillars has fallen' - Zuma pays tribute to Winnie Mandela - Mail & Guardian
Winnie Mandela, tarnished 'Mother' of post-apartheid South Africa - Reuters

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