“My last meeting with Zindzi Mandela”


AT a recent international conference at the Department of International Relations and Cooperation,  I had an occasion to reunite with Sis Zindzi. She was in the company of her amiable and jovial elder sister Zenani and we took to the remote corner to share our thoughts far from the ambassadorial glee and diplomatic loquaciousness of the conference. 

This was our first encounter since the passing of Mama Winnie Madikizela Mandela, and the occasion called for some long catch-up and chit -chat albeit within the limited time allowed by the rigours of the conference underway. 

Zindzi bemoaned the state of the nation and the state of her mother’s legacy.  We reminisced  about her mother’s favorite food  and love for mutton. We relived some anecdotes about her mother to some muted laughter and delight. She longed to come home to revive her mother’s legacy in some fashion that will bespeak of her correct role in the struggle. 

She was hurt about the state of her mother’s home in Orlando and decried the conduct of some young people who were looking after the house. She was upset that some of these acts of youthful indolence had been going on in the house for some time.  She requested me to address these young people given my close relations with some of them. 

Much of the time she spoke about the hurt and the loss of her mother. She bewailed the heavens and cursed the wind for the loss of her dear mother with whom she was inseparable. Zindzi, for the during of my many visits to her mother between 2000 to 2005 remained the closest and ever best friend of her mother. The void that her mother left was too huge a gulf to close and the hurt still palpable. 

READ:   Botswana reinstates coronavirus lockdown in capital for two weeks

On many occasions I will drive to many errands with Mama Winnie and true to form Zindzi will call more than five times a day. In case when she could not take her call she would shuffle the fone in my direction and chided that. “ khawuthethe nomtakwenu.”Speak to your sister. 

On one ocassion Zindzi had left her credit card in Mama Winnie’s car and was insisting that she needed to use it urgently. Mama Winnie‘s protestations did not assuage Zindzi who was insistent that it be brought back. We finished a consultation with the lawyers and headed to Orlando finding Zindzi behind a stove cooking her mother lunch. 

Along the way her mother complained about Zinzi’s carelessness and lack of attentiveness about her belongings and vowed to seat her down to reprimand her. When she arrived home Mama Winnie hugged and kissed her daughter as usual. She chided her lovingly calling her by her clan name :” Madiba what storm are you cooking.” 

Zindzi dished lunch and indicated that she could not stay since she had some urgent errands to run. Mama gave her her credit card and in a motherly caring gesture she fondly intimated. “ You can also take my credit card in case you are short.” My eyes bulged and I watched in amazement at the samausault and the betrayal of the earlier angry emotions. 

Wow, a loving mother reached out to her bag and handed her daughter her card in case she would fall short. After Zindzi left  I chided her about her intentions to seat Zindzi down and she offered  brief rejoinder: 

READ:   Risk of COVID-19 resurgence in South Africa as cases rise in Cape Town

“Thami, a mother’s love defies all odds.The bond between myself and my children is unbreakable.” 

“Mama that is a political answer you are giving me.” I sheepishly chuckled. “Everything is political, if you care to know.” She bemoaned. Calling me by my clan name had a neutralizing effect and I backed off instantly lest I start a serious war. I soon realized that this was an uncharted territory I was least qualified to venture into. 

For the duration of my proximity to Mama and her family, I became acquainted with Zindzi. For the best of times she would not broker any political discussion. She was more attentive to any topic under discussion and would mostly recoil and leave without making an input. 

Observing this about her I one day asked her about her “political silence” when heated discussions were under way in the house. Even when I brought some visiting American leader  of the African People’s Socialist Movement, Chairman Omali Yatshitela, and Mama hosted dinner, Zindzi‘s silence in the dinner table was palpable. 

I failed to extract an answer to my pertinent question. One day she patted me on the back and asserted “Some people talk about politics I have lived it all my life and the scars are still too deep.” Her unique high pinched voice reverberated in my mind. That revelation brought a lot of guilt in me given the suspicion that I have harbored about her “political silence.”

Her silence was a deep reflective expression of her anguish and the suffering that her family had been subjected to. Her father was imprisoned when she was a toddler and she bore all the hatred, violence and humiliation that her mother was subjected to. Her entire life was a gory and darkened experience in humiliation and dehumanization. So, when others spoke about politics and the state of things in the country and in the world, she viewed such engagements as academic given what her life had been. She opted to seat in the margins and behold the many saliva spitting contests with some trepidation. 

READ:   Global reaction to Moderna says its vaccine is 94.5% effective in preventing COVID-19

It was on rare occasions when she would be sufficiently provoked to mount a strong view. In such rare cases she would mount an imaginary pulpit to foster a strong sentiment. Mama Winnie would then remark that ; “Uthini na Madiba_” (What are you saying Madiba) as a way of expressing her delight and subtle approval at the expression of some radical thought.  This was also a way of spurring her on. 

Zindzi was her mother’s best friend and she would sometimes look with some misapprehension at the throng of visitors who would seek her audience. She had seen many of these political tourists and silently admired her mother’s patience with these assortments of guests.  

As she grew older her children became her preoccupation and she would devote her attention to their care and admiration.

 A curtain has fallen on a loving sister, a warm person, a radical fighter and her mother’s daughter. Safe passage Madiba. You will be delighted to meet your Mother!!!!

Translate »