On reflecting on the passing of Winnie Mandela, I am not only reminded of the extraordinary woman she was, but also struck by the astounding reaction of the people of South Africa.
The reaction in the media as well as the many personal and official tributes paid to her during the official period of mourning, recalled the hardship, loneliness and ostracising she experiences, and it reminded us of her unwavering commitment to her cause, and to the black people of South Africa.
The public reaction of South Africans was initially unexpected but made sense upon reflection. It was surprising because of the scale thereof. I lost count of the number of ceremonies held in her honour and for two weeks this completely dominated the media. The endless outpouring of grief and idealisation of the ‘mother of the nation’ may be apt for many, but is also saying something about where many people find themselves in this post-Zuma time.
As humans we are forward looking and as such we need to dream and have heroes. The corruption and self-interest of the Zuma project has left many South Africans, who dared to dream after 1994, disillusioned and disheartened. Winnie Mandela is filling this gap. She has become the hero who has restored some hope - a hero who relentlessly fought for what she believed in and who never gave up. It is the ‘not giving up’ and the need to continue believing in a cause, that many South Africans now need, and that she represents.
For the many South Africans who are struggling to come to grips with the scope of Jacob Zuma’s self-serving behaviour, being reminded of icons and veterans who were not driven by self-interest reconnects one to a larger purpose and goal.