Franca Writes: Winnie “Nomzamo” Mandela: She Who Tried!

Ruling party African National Congress (ANC) member Winnie Madikizela-Mandela attends the nominations session for the new leadership of the ANC’s elective conference at the University of the Free State in Bloemfontein, South Africa, Monday, Dec. 17, 2012. (AP Photo/Themba Hadebe)

At the death of an iconic figure that the world will continue to mourn Nelson Mandela, Franca could do no better that than look around the real definition of a selfless leader and the people behind his success as she presents the monthly installment of “The Diary of An Evolved Black Woman”. Read on!!

In February 1990, Nelson Mandela was released from prison. In March that same year I was born. At the age of 11, my mum told me a true story of how in the frenzy of Mandela’s release in 1990 I was nearly named Winnie Mandela.

A suggestion my dad vehemently protested because he felt Winnie Mandela had struggled too much in life and was afraid her name was going to have serious manifestations in his daughter’s life. My mother believed in the fearlessness of Winnie Mandela, believed she stood for the many voices of African women who were tired of being sidelined in serious national affairs. At the end of the day, as it is in our typical male dominated society, my father won that debate and I was given a different name.

As young as I was at the age of 11, I was not too happy with my father’s decision. Because I had watched almost all the movies on apartheid in South Africa, read some books, knew all the names and Winnie Mandela certainly was one of the heroes of its abolishment. I was so proud of her bravery and her resilience to what she believed in. I began to imagine how I would have bragged to my classmates and how I never would have ceased every opportunity to rub it into their faces. And I thought to myself, Winnie Mandela would not have been a bad name for me at all.

This is because, after all these years I have come to realize that Winnie Mandela and I have so much in common. So I have come to the conclusion that even though I wasn’t given her name, my mother’s conviction about Winnie’s personality might have been conferred to me.

In case you didn’t know, Winnie Mandela’s Xhosa name is “Nomzamo” which means, “She who tries”. If you are part of the bunch who doesn’t believe that names have impact on the personality, then I hope this Xhosa translation of her name does a little convincing for you. She didn’t just try, she was a fighter!

Despite restrictions on education of blacks during the apartheid era, she still managed to get a degree in Social Work. And guess what, I also graduated with a minor in Sociology and Social Work. Later, she earned another degree in international relations. Yes she had her flaws like any other mortal being like you and I but the bottom line is she was an activist!

I have been through a lot and even made some mistakes in life, but there is one thing I have always known for sure which is my purpose in life. I come from a family of just two girls, my elder sister and I. And we have always been taught to be independent and if possible play the role of both genders at home.

I went to an all female Senior High School and in addition was affiliated to the only female hall of residence in the University. So  from pounding “fufu” on my own, to fixing faulty bulbs and other electrical gadgets, to carrying sound systems; all these experiences have taught me to be very independent, more confident as a woman and to always fight for what I believe in and perhaps helped me formed my ideologies as a student leader in all my levels of education.

Just like Winnie Mandela, I got into a lot of trouble in Primary and Junior High school trying to be radical in putting my views across. But the mature “me” does that now in a more constructive way. It might seem a little too late to change my name to Winnie Mandela, but her fighting spirit sure does lives with me. We can condemn her for cheating on the late Nelson Mandela but if you can name one man alive who could stay faithful to his partner after 27 whole years of confinement without touching another woman, I would join you in the “condemnation quest.”

Aristotle’s principles on a good tragic hero, is for the hero to have flaws just like any normal human being. In this way we can all relate to the character’s experiences. Winnie Mandela just like her husband, had flaws and that is what makes them both true heroes. Biographers  try to write her out of the picture. Agree with her tactics or not, she was the force behind it all. Without her support, the story we see today could have been different.

Winnie “Nomzamo” Mandela tried and was a fighter. And guess what, I think I already have a name for my first daughter when the time comes!

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