SA: Madikizela-Mandela`s struggle for equality

SA: Madikizela-Mandela`s struggle for equality

Date: April 10, 2018
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By Fanuel Hadzizi

Johannesburg, 10 April: South Africa mourns the death of Winnie Madikizela Mandela who is widely regarded as the mother of the nation. It is important to reflect on the life that she shared with us. She was a strong, intelligent, powerful, independent and popular woman. Unfortunately for her, these are some among many qualities that most men find threatening because they do not conform to the teachings of patriarchy that African women are socialised to be.

Patriarchal societies create a woman who is emotionally weak, subordinate to men, intellectually inferior to their male counterparts and dependent on their husbands economically. Madikizela Mandela was the exact opposite of this type of woman. Deviation from these disempowering generally held stereotypes of women in their personal life like politics, sport, and education or in leadership automatically attracts negative sanctions overtly or covertly. Madikizela Mandela `s (May her soul rest in peace) treatment and negative reflection by certain sections of the media and other men is a classic example of patriarchy negatively sanctioning her even in death.

It must be clear that Madikizela Mandela made her own mistakes but should these be what defines her legacy? Accusations of her as a killer to young Stompie Seipei are malicious and hurtful since this was proven in a court of law that Madikizela Mandela had no hand in the boy`s death.

Nelson Mandela`s legacy was universally acknowledged but not so for Madikizela Mandela. The bias against her is so clear to see and the question is why to Madikizela Mandela and not to Mandela since they fought for the same cause against the same system in the same country? I cannot help but notice how their biological sex differences could have influenced the narratives. Mandela was a strong, intelligent, powerful and independent man which is generally expected of an African men on the other hand Madikizela Mandela had the exact characteristics but her crime is being a women hence the rebel tag.

The former president Thabo Mbeki has also weighed in to give an analysis on how Madikizela Mandela was at times faulty as a person which I felt was unkind but probably true.  He says about her, “she liked arriving at meetings late deliberately in order to get applause.” To say these words in a eulogy of a colleague who has just passed away and still to be buried is un-African. Even if in principle Mr Mbeki`s assessment is true, it is still unnecessary and harsh since she cannot respond to him posthumously and we may never know her side of the story.

Anne Debrah Austria in her article entitled Why Men Hate Strong, Independent women? says, “…if a woman is too intellectual and experienced than a man, then the man would most likely question his worth. And this is not what the society taught us. Men hate doubting themselves.” Although this view is subjective and may be unfair painting of men with the same brush, it is still worthy to pay attention to. If the attempts made at soiling her legacy is a reflection of South African society then patriarchy has sunk its tentacles deep.

Women’s success should be celebrated rather than a worry. Madikizela Mandela is a great example of a woman who refused to be defeated by patriarchy and apartheid. She fought against apartheid and bore the brunt of the system. She may have made some mistakes along the way.

Every woman should unapologetically claim their space without fear of the society`s sanctions because patriarchy will never acknowledge the power within them. It is time the world must stop judging women differently to men for gender equality is an ideal that must be realised in our lifetime as stipulated in various statutes like the Agenda 2030 SADC Protocol and Sustainable Development Goal 5 of promoting gender equality and women’s empowerment.

May Madikizela Mandela`s life be an inspiration to women in Africa and beyond to raise above adversity and take their rightful place in leadership.

Fanuel Hadzizi is Gender Links Monitoring and Evaluation Manager. This article is part of the GL news and blogs service.


One thought on “SA: Madikizela-Mandela`s struggle for equality”

Patricia says:

Waal well articulated Mr Hadzizi.MHSRIP.She was such a gender champion.

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