The myth of Mandela. The man who brought peace to South Africa, who ended the corrupt, violent apartheid that scarred the nation. Martin Luther King Jr by way of Malcolm X, pardoned for his early activism and militancy by the American government. But how, exactly, was that myth built?
You know how they say “behind every great man is a woman”? Well, in this case, in front of a great woman was a figurehead and a symbol of struggle and liberation. Winnie Madikizela-Mandela fought apartheid, fought the government, fought her own forced relocation, and fought for her husband’s freedom tirelessly over decades during the 20th century. Everything you have ever thought about Nelson Mandela is thanks to her thankless efforts.
As far as history is anti-woman, we have lionized the wrong Mandela.
Winnie was a militant. A leader of the townships, an inspiration to the real oppressed class of South Africa. She fought for full communism and a true government by and for the people. WINNIE itself looks at her life by years through her meeting and marrying Nelson Mandela, through to his decades long imprisonment, to the public harassment and misinformation campaign that destroyed her marriage and her political life.
A moment every woman in a position of power will relate to: Winnie Mandela boards a plane. On it is a man from the sitting government of South Africa who has the power to release Nelson Mandela from prison. She lays into him until finally, he relents. “Who can I talk to about getting Mandela released?”, he says.
This is after decades of public speaking on behalf of the ANC. Decades of organizing protests and rallies and funerals in townships. Decades of work on behalf of the oppressed. She has her own security force. She’s been arrested for driving back to her home. Every day, an attempt is made to turn her own husband against her because she is too politically powerful and a risk to the maintenance of corruption in government.
“Who are you speaking to now?”, Winnie asks in response.
WINNIE is made with the intimate knowledge of what it means to be a woman in public. To be constantly slandered, to face baseless and manufactured criminal charges. STRATCOM communicators speak with impunity about the misinformation and propaganda campaigns they waged against Winnie in public and the domestic campaigns they waged against her in private with impunity.
And why shouldn’t they? They’ve retired well off of their crimes.
When the ANC took power in South Africa, they did so through compromise. A political necessity, sure. But it was Winnie Mandela who had the integrity to stand by her beliefs and her values long after her life had been destroyed over them.
She is not a politician. She’s an activist. She’s a warrior.
The men of the South African resistance were ironically spared from assassination because they were arrested during their activist years. Their wives were the real heroes. And the ultimate irony is that in freeing her husband, Winnie Mandela erased her own identity. THREE AND A HALF STARS