Remembering Winnie Madikizela Mandela: A tribute by Dr Tshepo Motsepe

President Cyril Ramaphosa, Winnie Madikizela Mandela and Dr Tshepo Motsepe pictured at the late icon’s 80th birthday celebration.

President Cyril Ramaphosa, Winnie Madikizela Mandela and Dr Tshepo Motsepe pictured at the late icon’s 80th birthday celebration.

Published Sep 28, 2022


September 26 would have been Winnie Madikizela Mandela’s 86th birthday. To remember and honour this South African icon, IOL is republishing a series of special tribute articles written by those who were closest to her.

These articles were first published on September 26 in a commemorative edition supplement in The Star and Pretoria News, as well as in the commemorative edition digital magazine.


By Dr Tshepo Motsepe - Patron: WM Memorial NPC

This commemorate supplement marks and honours Mama Winnie 86th birthday.

Mama Winnie was not only a symbol, but a lasting and enduring flame of what the essence and meaning of our struggle for freedom and justice was about.

She became the enduring symbol of our fight, our push for gender parity and equality in the face of gender disparity and imbalance. She became the veneer and the articulation of the Women’s Charter, drafted in April 1954.

Winnie never wavered from her responsibilities, duties and commitment to serve and represent her people she loved and cherished - and in the process the motivation inspiration for generations of women to come.

In keeping with the indomitable spirit of Mama Winnie, I am deeply humbled and honoured to be Patron of the WM Memorial NPC, whose raison d'être, purpose and aim is to honour, remember and keep alive the memory and legacy of Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, affectionately known as the mother of the nation.

Her steadfast commitment to the people of South Africa, in particular the marginalised, poor and forgotten, who she served unwaveringly, was never more evident and shown by the fact that she, following the defeat of apartheid, refused to leave Soweto, wanting always to remain close and accessible to her people.

Though freedom and justice were obtained, Winnie recognised that her people still lived in economic poverty and were marginalised from the fruits of emancipation, which denied them the very freedoms she and other women of the struggle so tirelessly, selflessly sacrificed to realise and secure.

Sadly, as I reflect back on the past 28 years and the many positive strides we have made and achieved, we are still blighted by the scourge of gender-based violence, which remains and an all too visible scar on our new dispensation.

As an icon and champion of women’s rights and equality, Mama Winnie was always outspoken at the failure of government and civil society in addressing the ravages of gender-based violence and its psychological impact.

As this commemorative supplement pay’s homage to a wife, mother, housewife, breadwinner and political activist, I am reminded of my own mother, who demonstrated the same single-minded determination and commitment.

My mother was my rock, my North, South, East and West. My inspiration, my mentor who installed in me the very values, ideals, principles, passion and desire to succeed and accomplish regardless of the obstacles that lay before me as a women of colour.

Winnie was that immoveable rock that could not be shifted by the brutality, degradation and determination of the apartheid state to dehumanise her spirit which lay at the very core of her beliefs for social justice, freedom and equality for all.

She was the guiding light, and her indominatable sprit of strength and fortitude was particularly evident during the dark days of apartheid oppression, repression and violence.

Winnie personified all that was pure about our struggle for freedom, equality and justice - and in her pursuit of wanting to realise this, she never faltered from her dedication, commitment and single-mindedness to liberate South Africa and the majority of our people from the dehumanising shackles of apartheid.

Sadly, 28 years into our new dispensation and democracy, the meaningful, valiant and significant contribution made by the women of struggle has yet to be recognised, acknowledged and memorialised.

Against this backdrop, the purpose of the WMMR programme is to preserve the memory, history and legacy of Winnie Madikizela-Mandela and the many gallant women who played a critical role and contributed to the our freedom and democracy.

Therefore, my support for the WM Memorial NPC and the WMMR Programme, I hope will provide the extra boost it needs to ensure we preserve and protect the stories and contributions made by the women of struggle against apartheid.

Sadly, today our new struggle is the struggle against forgetting. We all have a responsibility and duty to safeguard and ensure the voices of the women of our struggle are not forgotten and remain in our minds, hearts and consciousness.