Hildegarde The Arena
Depending on context, Zimbabwe can easily claim to be Siamese twins with Zambia.
It can also do the same with Mozambique and/or South Africa, and other Southern African Development Community member states.
A shared history, present circumstances and desires for a better future are some of the issues to support the argument.
Take the month of April for example, a month so symbolic for Zimbabwe; a month where there have been calls to declare it as Zimbabwe’s history month – South Africa can equally claim the same.
The Herald Editor-in-Chief Caesar Zvayi made an impassioned plea in an analytical piece (“Declare April Zim history month”), published on April 4, 2012.
April 2016 added to the landmark events Zvayi cites when politician Cde Victoria Chitepo, wife of late national hero and Zimbabwe African National Union (Zanu) chairman, died on April 8.
That same day, another freedom fighter and heroine Vivian Mwashita also passed on. Four days later, another freedom fighter and prolific writer Alexander Kanengoni passed away.
As President Emmerson Mnangagwa on Wednesday led the nation in commemorating Zimbabwe’s 38th Independence anniversary, charting new frontiers, South Africa meanwhile was holding another memorial service for struggle stalwart Dr Zola Skweyiya, who died last week as they were mourning the demise of another iconic figure and mother of the nation, Nomzamo Winnie Madikizela-Mandela.
The former wife to South Africa’s founding President Nelson Mandela, Madikizela-Mandela, died on April 2.
South Africa also salutes its gallant sons and daughters who died during the month of April.
Twenty-three-year-old Solomon Mahlangu, an uMkhonto we Sizwe fighter was hung by the apartheid regime on April 5, 1979, while Chris Hani, the South African Communist Party leader and uMkhonto we Sizwe chief of staff, was assassinated on April 10, 1993.
South Africans also commemorate the death of African National Congress president Oliver Tambo on April 23.
My point of departure is that a few hours after Winnie’s death after intense research on her life, part of which I knew, I wrote on my micro-blog: “Who was Nomzamo Winfred (Winnie) Madikizela-Mandela? Why did she sound so spiritual in her letters to husband Nelson Mandela?”
We define spirituality differently, but in this instance, I was referring to the Christina faith. This is a part of her personality that has received scant attention, since analysts focus on Winnie the anti-apartheid struggle stalwart and politician.
I first noted that spiritual element in a TV footage on her a few years after marrying Mandela, when she says: “I shall never lose hope. And, my people will never lose hope. In fact, we expect the work will go on.”
I had also seen Winnie on TV donning her Methodist Church of South Africa Mothers Union uniform, but being the firebrand that she was, I probably was among the hordes of people who thought she was just putting on a show.
Thereafter, I watched an interview she had with Felicia Mabuza on SABC, where she admitted that if she did not believe in God, there was no way she could go through the pain and suffering she experienced at the hands of the apartheid regime.
They were bent on breaking her — spiritually and physically – but her faith in God gave her the resolve to fight on.
Her letters to Mandela when he was incarcerated at Robben Island also reveal this hope in God.
“We were hardly a year together when history deprived me of you. I was forced to mature on my own. Your formidable shadow, which eclipsed me left me naked and exposed to the bitter world of a young ‘political widow’.
“I know this was a crown of thorns, but I also knew I said: ‘I do’, for better or worse.” (From letter she wrote Nelson Mandela on 2 /7 /70, and reproduced in her autobiography: “491 Days: Prisoner Number 1323 /69”).
She continues in the same letter: “In marrying you, I was marrying the struggle of my people. Yes, the thorns sometimes pricked me so hard, the blood from the wounds covered up my eyes and the excruciating pains blinded me for a while . . . Although I staggered across the path of freedom with pain, I staggered forward and never doubted my goal even when the crown was nailed by my people at times, this was only history. I would not have been worthy of their great love without such.”
What also caught this writer’s attention was her continual reference to “a crown of thorns”, and the fact that her death was on Easter Monday, after she had attended the Good Friday service at the Methodist Church, Orlando circuit in Soweto.
Good Friday is the day Christians say Jesus Christ was crucified and a crown of thorns is central.
But, it was her personal assistant Zodwa Zwane, who is also a minister of the gospel, who testified during the first memorial service held for her last week that “Winnie died with spiritual words in her mouth”.
Recounting their last moments together, Zwane said: “I don’t know at what point we would talk about our funerals, but she said, ‘you know Zodwa, I would make you famous when I am dead’, and I’d look at her and she’d say, ‘because you would speak at my funeral and the whole world will listen to you and you will tell a story that nobody else knows.”
Zwane continued that Madikizela-Mandela started to preach to her saying: “You remember the 14 stations (of the cross) that Zenani used to talk us about? For the first time in my church, they spoke about the stations . . . and one part that really got me was when Jesus fell, and when he woke up, He saw His mother.”
Madikizela-Mandela told her PA that she knew the pain of falling, “and when you stand up, you see the faces of the people, and you long for their freedom”.
Although she had not attended the service with her, Zwane said Winnie insisted that she come over to the house, and that Easter Saturday when she got to her house, she said: “Let me share with you yesterday’s sermon, and she talks about forgiveness, and it’s one of those things that whenever she spoke about, she would have tears in her eyes, but the tears would not roll down her face, and she would say ‘Zodwa, I don’t have tears anymore because I felt the pain up to the threshold, and tears don’t come anymore . . . And she went on with the words up to the time when Jesus says, ‘Oh Father, where are you?’”
Winnie told her that she felt sorry for people that have never asked, “God, where are you when it hurts?” She said she had asked those questions so many times.
Madikizela-Mandela told her PA that: “Jesus had done it all . . . I was in church for five hours, and it was not yet finished, and I left just before the seventh word.”
She asked Zwane to share with her, her sermon in Springs, the last word: “Father, in thy hands I commit my spirit.”
Maybe Zwane sensed it and asked Winnie that they continue the conversation on Tuesday. But it was not to be, for Winnie died on Monday, but the last words she told her PA were the very words Jesus spoke on the cross, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.” (Luke 17:46) After saying this, He breathed His last.
Zodwa said it was gratifying to her because “Mrs Mandela died with spiritual words,” and cautioned that “real life only begins after the comfort zone. Somebody has to take the spear and move forward.”
I also wrote on that blog that “when a tree like Winnie has fallen, African women, young and old, are encouraged that a shoot will sprout. It has happened before and will happen again.
“Mbuya Nehanda in Zimbabwe said ‘my bones will rise again’, and they did.
“So, a shoot from the fallen tree Winnie will sprout.”
Journalist Catherine Mwauyakufa concurred: “Indeed she inspired life, so I can already see strong shoots from her roots!”
And the parting shot from the writer is: It will be like what happened in biblical times with the Root of Jesse: “Then a shoot from the stem of Jesse, and a branch will bear fruit. The Spirit of the LORD will rest on Him, The spirit of wisdom and understanding, The spirit of counsel and strength, The spirit of knowledge and the fear of the LORD . . . ” (Isaiah 11:1-2)