Picture : Dimpho Maja/AFRICA NEWS AGENCY
Picture : Dimpho Maja/AFRICA NEWS AGENCY
Picture : Supplied
Picture : Supplied

The people of Majwemasweu, Brandfort, are unlikely to forget Winnie Madikizela-Mandela any time soon. And this collective memory, it would seem, is all the government needs not to put her on the back-burner.

Mamane, as the iconic Struggle stalwart was affectionately called in this small town, left an indelible mark on the locals. She came to Brandfort in May 1977 on a banishment order by the apartheid government. 

She left after eight years when her house was petrol-bombed. Although she left physically, she has never really left the residents, who have fond memories of her.

Madikizela-Mandela died earlier this year, aged 81, and was buried in Fourways Memorial Park, north of Joburg, on April 14. 

One woman who will never forget her is her friend, Nomafa Nora Moahluli, who defied the authorities’ strict orders to residents to ostracise her. 

The schoolteacher was a neighbour of Madikizela-Mandela and her daughter, Zindzi, from the time they were dumped at house number 802 Deep Level.

She would witness the fiery political activist’s countless efforts to improve the lives of people in Majwemasweu. As a trained social worker, it was second nature for Madikizela-Mandela to care. 

Picture : Supplied

Moahluli tells how she cooked for locals who drank jukutla, a version of skokiaan, three houses from her. “She’d cook for me too.”

Their Xhosa heritage gave them common interests, not just cooking umnqusho (samp), but other motherly concerns too. She repeats that the banishment of Nomzamo, as she calls her, to Brandfort “was a blessing in disguise, it was God’s work”. 

She says of the crèche: “It was all Nomzamo’s efforts. We opened it with only 15 children. Mothers were threatened not to take their children to this project started by the Communist.”

Today it caters for 57 children. On its inner walls are pictures of Winnie and her late former husband, Nelson Mandela, and one of Steve Biko. The wording under Mamane’s picture reads: ‘‘Winnie Mandela, the first woman to open a crèche in Brandfort Township in 1983.”

The tiny tots know who she is! It’s unlikely the adults will forget her.

The house is due for a refurbishment. Not much has changed, except security officers are posted full-time at the gate as the authorities talk budgets. The Department of Arts and Culture, which has taken over the museum project as the house is a national heritage site, did not respond to requests for comment.

Department director Irwin Langeveld reportedly said R117000 was paid to the contractor and R476000 to the architect in the 2011/12 financial year. 

The Free State government under former premier Ace Magashule poured millions into the museum. No work was done despite R8 million being spent then on a project initiated in 2005.

Slideshow by Rabbie Serumula

Moahluli’s most urgent wish is to see the house spruced up and a museum set up in memory of her friend. 

Last week, Free State Premier Sisi Ntombela presented her with a fridge “to thank me for what I did for Nomzamo”. Maybe the authorities too will not forget Mamane.

The Sunday Independent