CAPE TOWN, South Africa, April 2, 2018–The Presiding Officers of Parliament, National Assembly Speaker Baleka Mbete and National Council of Provinces Chairperson Thandi Modise, have expressed shock and collective grief at the passing-on of a veteran Member of Parliament and struggle icon Winnie Madikizela-Mandela today. uMam’uMadikizela-Mandela, affectionately and widely known as Mother of the Nation, passed on at the age of 81 at the Milpark Hospital in Johannesburg after a long illness.
Speaker Mbete and Chairperson Modise said as a struggle icon in her own right during years of colonial and apartheid repression, Ms Madikizela-Mandela curved her niche role in shaping the struggle for freedom and in efforts to realize the new free and democratic South Africa. She defied the repressive laws and associated patriarchy, embodied a brave character of an unflinching woman in the wake of all odds against her throughout her life. She was a solid rock, a defender of the vulnerable and defenceless.
Together with many contemporaries of her time, she was a torch bearer to gender mainstreaming, and an inspiration to millions of down-trodden women across the length and breadth of the country, across the continent and the world. She was one of her generation of struggle stalwarts that survived to be Founding Members of the democratic Parliament of South Africa in 1994. As one of the pioneer Members of Parliament and our parliamentary democracy, Ma-Winnie, as she was affectionately known, paved the way for what Parliament of South Africa has since become. Her vibrancy, unending inner and outer beauty, her passionate connection with ordinary citizens, and her witty and critical mind had contributed in keeping the critical solidarity of the women of South Africa in every facet of life.
Our Mother has not died, she has just passed-on the baton to us, both men and women in Parliament, in government, and in the society at large, so that the ideals she lived and struggle for, can be realized in our lifetime. The challenges of poverty, inequality from a gender and race perspective, under development and many societal ills facing South Africa today, are problems she fought tirelessly eradicate, as a contribution to building a truly socially just country where all people can enjoy a great quality of life.
She will be greatly missed, and Parliament trusts that together we will cherish and celebrate her life. Today we have indeed lost a great leader, a champion of freedom and development, a people’s hero, and a Mother, and a defender of the down-trodden.
May her soul rest in peace.