Winnie Madikizela-Mandela (File)

Within a week of starting my current job, I began to decorate my cubicle. I had seen a number of eloquent and positive quotes by Nelson Mandela that epitomized the spirit I felt in undertaking my new position. 

For years after losing my job as a computer programmer, I had drifted in and out of a variety of jobs. With each and every new position I acquired and new skills I learned, they prepared me to take on further adventures in my end of life work experiences. I learned to drive huge buses. I worked part time, then full time, then whenever-they-needed-me time so that I could survive. 

Admittedly, what I went through was nowhere near what Nelson Mandela suffered by being jailed for 27 years. But each of our trials and tribulations take on huge proportions as we deal with them. Sometimes those burdens are the first time in our lives that we have had to deal with personal fears. Those fears make crumbling walls out of our senses as our false pride wears down to reveal our insecure inner being. For me, whenever I got to feeling down and blue, I would read a Mandela quote and remind myself that if he could survive being imprisoned, how dare I take anything that was happening to me and make it more than the anthill it was when that man had had an entire mountain placed upon him.

I lined my cubicle with his pictures and corresponding quotes. Each quote was accompanied by a photograph of him. I printed those quotes out in color so that my eyes would always be automatically drawn to the brilliant visuals, along with the words that lifted my spirits.

I was at work on Thursday, Dec. 5, when a co-worker paused by my desk and told me that Nelson Mandela had passed. I had been including him in my prayers, asking that he would miraculously get better. Yet when God needs an angel and sends for them, there isn’t anything we mere mortals can do. So we mourn our loss, remembering to speak often of the dead because by doing so we cause them to live forever.

My column last week was about seeing the movie Winnie Mandela. There’s another old saying that states, “Behind every great man, there’s a great woman.” For Nelson Mandela, that is his ex-wife Nomzamo Winfreda Zanyiwe Madikizela-Mandela. Winnie was the main reason Nelson Mandela’s name remained at the tip of so many people’s tongues in the fight to free black South Africans from the tyranny of apartheid. 

She may not be his current wife and widow, but her treatment at his funeral will say a lot. Her spot should be one of reverence, not delegated to some sideline position. 

During his 27 years being imprisoned, Nelson Mandela only spent one night in solitary confinement while Winnie Mandela spent over a year. She was tortured, banished to a township outside of Soweto, was totally alone in rearing her two young children and and never got to see them go to school on their first day as she was prohibited by the apartheid government from stepping on school grounds. 

I know there are some controversies regarding Winnie Mandela, but before anyone tells me what she was alleged to have done, address what the South African government did to her and her people. 

We have lost Nelson, but we still have Winnie.

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