“Winnie Believed In Us When No One Believed In The Youth”

South African activist and political struggle stalwart Mam’ Winnie Madikizela Mandela died on Monday 2 March 2018, at the Milpark Netcare Hospital in Johannesburg following a long illness. The Daily Vox spoke to a few student leaders at the Durban campuses to find out what the fallen icon meant to them.

Nontobeko Mkhwanazi, 22, student, Durban

Mam’ Winnie was a pillar of strength to us as the youth. She taught us how important the role of a woman is in society and in the revolution. In fact, she showed me that there’s no revolution without women and she played her role very well. She also showed me that a woman can have so much more strength than a man in a country that’s male dominated in terms of politics. She broke the gender stereotype and proved that being a woman means power and that one has a voice. As a young black woman, I look up to her and draw inspiration from her as the mother of the nation. And I refer to her as the mother of the nation because of her enormous contribution to our democracy and taking under her wings the likes of Julius Malema to teach and nurture from a young age.

Madikizela-Mandela died at the Milpark Hospital in Johannesburg on Monday. Mandela family spokesman Victor Dlamini, said “She died after a long illness’ for which she had been in and out of hospital since the start of the year. She succumbed peacefully in the early hours of Monday afternoon surrounded by her family and loved ones.

Zithulele Ndlela, 21, student, Durban

Mam’ Winnie was the honorary president of the Congress of South African Students (Cosas) and played a critical role in ensuring that Cosas is still relevant even today. I look at her as someone who encouraged us and someone we draw inspiration from in tackling issues that we continue to face. She is someone who believed in us even when no one believed in us as the youth and always saw something in us that none of the senior members of the ANC saw. She taught us that where determination exists, no amount of fear can dismantle the flag of success.

Minenhle Xaba, 20, student, Durban

If there’s one thing that Mam’ Winnie taught us as the black youth is that black people can lead. She was the first president of Cosas and she was part of the struggle. She was there in negotiations about democracy and other things that had to do with the freedom of South Africa. She taught us that nothing is impossible so long as there’s determination and will to do it.

Bonginkosi Mndebele, 19, student, Durban

Mam’ Winnie was an ANC stalwart who was at the forefront of the fight against apartheid in South Africa. She remains a huge motivation for us as the youth when it comes to the struggle and emancipation. We look up to people like her and Dr Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma as they’ve always been there as activists. The way she prioritised education was very encouraging to us to also take it seriously. Her passing has come as a shock to us given that elections are nearing and she was one of the elderly people within the ANC who would help with strategizing for the elections in 2019.

Zonke Gwala, 19, student, Durban

When I looked at Mam’ Winnie I saw a mentor for a black South African female child because of her strong nature. What I took from her is that whenever one wants to do something, they should do it regardless of their gender. She did everything fearlessly and broke many boundaries. She rebuked the spirit of gender stereotyping and showed to us that being a woman means you can do and overcome anything, not just politically but in life in general. We can also learn from her teachings to become the better people, better women of this country.

Featured image via Flickr