Grief & Loss SPEAK OUT

In memory of the ‘mother and the heartbeat of the revolution’

In memory of the ‘mother and the heartbeat of the revolution’

By Brian Muhammad |


Winnie Madikizela Mandela, the queen mother in the struggle for freedom, justice, equality and self-determination in South Africa, has passed. But those who possess spirits like Ms. Mandela are rare and can never be spoken of as dead because they live lives for causes much larger than themselves.


The Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan, Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, center, with Mother Khadijah Farrakhan, First Lady of the Nation of Islam in 1996. Photo: Final Call Archive

‘Winnie Mandela was the true hero of the freedom movement of South Africa. Imprisoned and maligned, even by her own, she held fast to the principles of freedom, never wavering from fighting for the interests of South African Blacks, for all oppressed people around the world.’

A family statement announced that Ms. Mandela died April 2 at the age of 81 in the Netcare Milpark Hospital in Johannesburg, South Africa. According to the statement, she has been in and out of the hospital in recent months with a lengthy illness and was surrounded by family and friends when she transitioned.

“The Mandela family are deeply grateful for the gift of her life and even as our hearts break at her passing, we urge all those who loved her to celebrate this most remarkable woman,” they said.

“It is with great sadness, accompanied by great joy, that we heard the news that Winnie Madikizela Mandela, the mother and the heartbeat of the revolution, had passed. The sadness that I feel and we feel is that this great woman of struggle has been called back to the only life-giver that there is, Almighty God Allah. But the joy is that the heartbeat of the revolution can never die. For the revolution cannot die until true freedom, justice and equality come to every member of the suffering Black people of South Africa and Africa, and all those who suffer injustice,” said the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan in an official statement issued April 2. (See full statement.)

“And the wicked ones who have stolen the land and the wealth of Africa must eventually give it all back or it shall be taken back by God and the people who refuse to let that heartbeat of true liberation, freedom, justice and equality die. She lives and the struggle continues until total victory.”

“Winnie Mandela was the true hero of the freedom movement of South Africa.  Imprisoned and maligned, even by her own, she held fast to the principles of freedom, never wavering from fighting for the interests of South African Blacks, for all oppressed people around the world. Long live Winnie Mandela, our sister warrior and leader. Amandla!” said Elaine Brown, former Black Panther leader based in San Francisco, upon hearing the news of Mother Mandela’s passing.


Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, former wife of Nelson Mandela, greets demonstrators, behind razor wire at a bail hearing for businessman Piet Odendaal in Viljoenskroon, in the Orange Free State, South Africa, Nov. 10, 2000. Odendaal is accused of murdering a black employee and dragging his body behind a truck in the nearby town of Sasolburg.

In the context of today’s fight against Western imperialism, Ms. Brown told The Final Call, “First of all, the struggle in South Africa is not over, as Winnie herself pointed out, because when there was the refusal by the ANC to nationalize the various industries, keeping diamonds and gold and so forth, she rightly criticized that.”

“I don’t know what the status is of South African Blacks today, but there’s similarities as to Blacks in this country, except for we are a minority and they are majority,” Ms. Brown said. The bottom line is all of the diamond mines and other resources that South Africa boasts remain in the hands of enemies of the people, she said. “So, it was Winnie who pointed that out, and she continued to speak out and fight with her last breath on behalf of the interests of the poor, of the oppressed Black masses in South Africa. Now we still have a situation here in the United States where we actually have had more Blacks in prison than were in South Africa under Apartheid at one point,” Ms. Brown added.

“She was an icon, a courageous, bold, fearless woman and leader in her own right,” said Emira Woods of the International Working Group for Africans Striving for Justice, Peace and Dignity. Ms. Woods said Ms. Mandela’s contribution, vision, commitment and dedication to South Africa resonated worldwide and will serve as an inspiration for a long time to come.


Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, left, with Mother Khadijah Farrakhan, First Lady of the Nation of Islam.

Phile Chionesu, convener of the historic Million Woman March, held in Philadelphia in 1997 agreed. Ms. Mandela spoke at the successful gathering.

“Actually, this is a glorious day—it’s a sad day, but it’s a glorious day and that I feel her spirit as such that I am inspired, I am motivated, I am just full. I had the opportunity to just sit and talk with her mother to daughter,” said Ms. Chionesu.

The march organizers and “Mother Winnie” defied great opposition and pressure from the United States and South African governments to prevent her from participating. She was facing a politically-driven trial and legal charges at the time in South Africa. That’s exactly why we wanted to get her here, Ms. Chionesu said.

“We want the world to see that our women love her, and our people love her, and we want to surround her with love so that when she does go to trial, she will know that we were with her,” Ms. Chionesu said.

For many Ms. Mandela was an uncompromising revolutionary figure who fought relentlessly against the White minority regime that controlled Africa’s most advanced economy. In the anti-apartheid movement, she was unfaltering against enemies of Black uplift and human dignity.


Nation of Islam Min. Louis Farrakhan (L) and Winnie Madikizela Mandela (R) laugh during their joint press conference in Mrs. Madikizela Mandela’s Soweto home outside Johannesburg Jan 5, 1998. Min. Farrakhan was received by Winnie Madikizela Mandela on the South African leg of his 53 nation tour to promote “peace, atonement and reconciliation”.

When she spoke, her clarion call and affirmation for liberation was Amandla! Amandla! Amandla! It’s a Zulu and Xhosa word meaning “power.”

As head of the African National Congress Women’s League, Ms. Mandela lifted the profile of women freedom fighters globally. Observers of resistance movements and the anti-apartheid struggle said she represents generations of women fighters before her, like Yaa Asantewa, who battled British domination in Ghana and Underground Railroad conductor Harriett Tubman who left no choice but “ride or die” when escaping slavery.

“Winnie Mandela represented the spirit of Black resistance … epitomized by strong Black women,” observed Ajamu Baraka, national organizer for the Black Alliance for Peace. Because of the harsh and dehumanizing conditions of apartheid South Africa, Ms. Mandela discovered, like many young Black women, that she had to be strong and do whatever was necessary—not only survive—but to be in a place where she could contribute to the liberation of her people, he said.

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