There is a type of person who stands at the graveside of a sleeping warrior and sneers…, Who watching the lowering coffin brings out a catalogue of all the warrior’s failings and defeats then smirks. There is a type of person who hides behind the veil of death to sit in judgment. We know your type.

Winnie Mandela – they seized everything from her, but they could never make her cease being free. Death has claimed her. Will they let her rest?

Friends and Africans, people of the world, lend me your ears,

I have come to mourn Mama Winnie and not to praise her,

The evil that we do will live after us,

And so let it be with Mama Winnie.

They have told you that Mama Winnie was controversial

Should she have sat quietly at home knitting while apartheid ravaged her land?

Insisting on your freedom and your peoples freedom is so so controversial.

Believing in equal personhood is so very controversial.

They have told you that Mama Winnie was violent.

Did the guerilla fighters go into the bush to sing peace songs and kumbaya?

Did those who tortured and imprisoned her, who massacred the children of Sharpeville

do that so politely and with such decorum?

Has freedom ever been won timidly like a furtive mouse hiding in the bushes?

When you count all the bodies of the apartheid brutalised, does Mama Winnie’s overshadow everyone elses’?

Judgment is easy when the black mother-warrior sleeps.

Judgment is easy when you do not wear Mama Winnie’s shoes

A thousand times too big

Her heart a million times too strong.


We must all go down to death.

I’d rather die a radical rebel than a reed shifted this way and that by the wind of the world’s wails.

I would rather die a Winnie than a willow bent by the pressures of compromise, hands pointing down to the ground.

I would rather die with a clenched fist…

Raised defiantly.

Winnie was a rock. They struck her and complained she was too hard.

Winnie was a vuvuzela. They played her and complained she was too loud.

Winnie was a black woman. They saw her fire and said she was too much.

They will not let her rest in peace, but she was never interested in their cold and fragile peace. She was a warrior who never rested… So Reign in Power Mama Winnie. Reign on.


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African woman, lawyer, teacher, poet and researcher. Singer of songs, writer of words, very occasional dancer of dances. I seek new ways of interpreting the African experience within our consciousness to challenge static ideology.


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