• South African activist and politician Winnie Mandela. (AAP)Source: AAP
Black celebrities have paid tribute to revolutionary South African anti-apartheid activist Madikizela-Mandela as the tussle over her legacy begins.
3 Apr 2018 - 1:54 PM  UPDATED 3 Apr 2018 - 2:45 PM

Black celebrities have paid tribute to revolutionary South African anti-apartheid activist Winnie Madikizela-Mandela as the tussle over her legacy begins. 


While mainstream media has forefronted the activist's corruption scandals and the breakdown of her marriage to Nelson Mandela in coverage of her death, prominent black figures have paid tribute to the activist's hardship and sacrifice in her fight to end racism in South Africa.

As the battle over the values underpinning official historical narratives and obituaries becomes a matter of public debate, especially how it has framed or excluded women and people of colour, the pointed celebration of Madikizela-Mandela has a note of defiance.  



Madikizela-Mandela invariably became known as the wife of icon Nelson Mandela, and her fight for his release during his near-three decade imprisonment at the hands of the South African  regime.

It was a descriptor the unapologetic Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, who wanted to be known as an revolutionary in her own right, often chafed against.  

“I am not Mandela’s product,” she said in one interview.  “I am the product of the masses of my country and the product of my enemy”.

Referred to as 'Mother of the Nation' for her activism fighting South Africa's brutal white supremacist apartheid regime, but dogged by scandal, Madikizela-Mandela remains a polarising figure.

Unlike her husband, Winnie Madikizela-Mandela maintained a white-hot rage at her decades of brutality and mistreatment at the hands of South Africa’s white rulers.

The couple met when Mandela spied 22-year-old Madikizela-Mandela at a bus stop in Soweto. She was the country's first black female social worker. Mandela was then a huge-figure in the anti-apartheid struggle, 18 years her senior and married with three children. 

“I cannot say for certain if there is such a thing as love at first sight,” the late Mandela wrote in his biography. “But I do know that the moment I first glimpsed Winnie Nomzamo, I knew that I wanted to have her as my wife.”

The marriage lasted 38 years and endured his 27-year imprisonment.

The pair separated two years after Mandela was freed from prison in 1990 and divorced in 1996.

In her 1984 memoir  “Part of My Soul Went With Him,”  Madikizela-Mandela reflects on the toll her husband's  imprisonment and their struggle for freedom had on their marriage and her mental health. 

“I had so little time to love him. And that love has survived all these years of separation … perhaps if I’d had time to know him better I might have found a lot of faults, but I only had time to love him and long for him all the time.

“I am a living symbol of whatever is happening in the country,” she wrote.

“I am a living symbol of the white man’s fear. I never realized how deeply embedded this fear is.”

Steve Biko and other anti-apartheid heroes you need to know about
You've heard of Nelson Mandela but how about some of the lesser known but vital anti-apartheid activists like Biko, who would have been 70 this week and owned the slogan "black is beautiful".
Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom: Idris Elba interview
The iconic actor from The Wire and Luther talks Nelson Mandela, his DJ work and making videos for Mumford & Sons.