All the stories since the announcement of Winnie Madikizela-Mandela's death have been accounts of a strong black woman who refused to live in the shadow of a man, says writer. Photo: Independent Media Archives
In her book, We Should All Be Feminists, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie wrote; “Gender matters everywhere in the world. And I would like today to ask that we should begin to dream about and plan for a different world. A fairer world, a world of happier men and happier women who are truer to themselves.”

When I think of a woman who was truer to herself, but perhaps not happy, Mama Winnie Madikizela-Mandela comes to mind. I keep pondering and sometimes wonder if the unfairness and injustices we continue to suffer as a country, could get all the answers from a female leader?

Mama Winnie, you were the epitome of a black African feminist. All the stories that I’ve read and watched since the announcement of your death on April 2, were accounts of a strong black woman who refused to live in the shadow of a man, irrespective of how powerful that man was. You insisted on paving your own path, and that on its own was remarkable.

I get goosebumps when I listen to or read stories of how the patriarchy in the very liberation movement turned-political party, tried so hard to oppose and sideline you. They were scared of the power you possessed. They still fear the presence of a powerful woman.

However, this isn’t about the party but about the powerhouse that was you, Mama. You were a real matriarch. Your warmth was felt everywhere you went. That is something patriarchy cannot relate to nor tolerate.

The ANC leadership did not fail you, they failed themselves.

In South Africa and the whole world, most positions of power, influence and privilege are occupied by men. This would have made sense tens of thousands years ago when survival depended on physical strength. But unfortunately, democracy did not usher in the liberation of women.

It solidified the positions of men who are egotistic, narcissist and misogynistic.

It was never going to be easy for a strong-willed, assertive and foresighted woman like you to rise to power in the context of politics. They did not want to make room for a black African feminist like yourself. Your presence, mental substance and essence was the highest level of discomfort for them. They robbed us of your full greatness. However, they could never keep your greatness from us.

Perhaps realising that you would fight for the freedom of your people without them made them feel emasculated. They were never ready for you Mama.

They deprived you of political power because they were scared you would expose their incompetence as men, which was subsequently going to make them feel so emasculated.

They did not exclude you from running for the highest office in the land because they thought you were not good enough. It was because they knew and still know that you would outdo them in every way possible.

Adichie further wrote: “Today, we live in a vastly different world. The person more qualified to lead is not the physically stronger person. It is the more intelligent, the more knowledgeable, the more creative and more innovative. And there are no hormones for those attributes. A man is likely as a woman to be intelligent, innovative and creative. We have evolved, but our ideas of gender have not evolved very much.”

That is what scared them the most. You had those attributes way before we could dream of being free from apartheid. Not only that, they don’t give us intelligent or creative leaders. They give us thieves, “unwise intellectuals” who are reaping the rewards of their fathers.

Your legacy will continue.

Whether they build roads in your honour or not, whether they erect statues to salute you or not, whether they name hospitals or build museums in your name or not, your legacy has multiplied in our hearts and minds.

Lala ngoxolo qhawe lamaqhawe, Mother of the Nation.

* Kabelo Chabalala is the founder of the Young Men Movement. E-mail, [email protected]; Twitter, @KabeloJay; Facebook, Kabelo Chabalala.

** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Media.

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