BY PREMIER SEFORA NTOMBELA
On the 06th of August 2021, just three days prior to the celebration of the national women’s day in our country, a day which is reserved primarily for the recognition of the immense contribution made by the fearless women of our country, the National Department of Arts and Culture finally concluded on a critical issue we have been fighting for, the renaming of Brandfort to Nomzano Winnie Madikizela-Mandela!!
It is common knowledge that this struggle icon, a liberation stalwart and a true leader of our people was banished to Brandfort in May 1977 by the illegitimate apartheid regime. They did so in an attempt to silence her ever fighting voice and breaking her fearless spirit of no surrender.
This was after the regime had attempted in all ways possible to silence her and failed. She was under fulltime surveillance by the apartheid oppressors and experienced torture, intimidation, vandalism and burglary to her home, imprisonment and even bombings. The police raids were relentless, with intrusions into her home sometimes happening up to four times a day.
All of these attempts did very little to deter her from leading our people without fear, in an effort to ensure that we achieve the democratic South Africa we enjoy today. Her conviction only became more stronger and determined for the total collapse of the illegitimate apartheid regime.
This led her “domestic exile” to Brandfort, on instruction from the apartheid regime, where she was to spend eight years of her life. Those who lived in the township were warned not to speak to her as she was a very dangerous “terrorist” and she was to be isolated at all cost.
She was even forced out of employment at the Baragwanath hospital where she was working as a social worker, with the regime ensuring that everywhere she went to seek employment to feed her family, she would be fired.
Her small children were not spared this kind of harassment and brutality by the regime, it in-fact ensured that they become victimized in an effort to force their mother into silence and sell-out the struggle.
All of these, including her banishment to Brandfort did not break her ever fighting spirit. She continued with her activities as she had always done in Soweto, this is despite the fact that there was still fulltime police surveillance on her.
As a clear demonstration of her commitment to the struggle of our people and her persistent will to take forward her political ideals, she was able to have progressive relations with our people in Brandfort despite the prior warnings by the regime.
In a clear indication of defiance of the authorities, she worked together with the community and established a local gardening collective; a soup kitchen; a mobile health unit; a day care centre; an organisation for orphans and juvenile delinquents and a sewing club amongst others.
It is on the basis of this fighting spirit that the community ultimately appreciated her contribution and embraced her leadership qualities. Indeed, o ne a tshwere thipa ka bohaleng!!!
In her honor, the house where she was banished to, was officially opened by our government as a museum where her full contribution towards our struggle is to be documented.
We remain fully committed in ensuring that this project becomes a resounding success. It is for this reason that the finalization of the renaming of the entire area after her brings the greatest of joys to all of us.
On the 20th August 2021, we will be officially recording this historic moment and rename this important town in our collective history after our icon, the true mother of our nation, the former President of my organisation, the African National Congress Womens League!!!
Her overall contribution to our struggle against apartheid regime is unparalleled and I hope that all of us, particularly the younger generations, could take the baton forward and ensure that the contribution made by this icon, together with other women stalwarts of our struggle such as, Mama Charlotte Maxeke (in whose name a rehabilitation centre was named in Botshabelo), Mama Lillian Ngoyi, Mama Getrude Shope and Mama Alberina Sisulu (whose statue we will be launching later this month in Tweeling) is never reversed but taken to higher levels.
We remain indebted to the immense contribution made by all of these fearless and radical women who led from the front in shaping the kind of society we have today. Ours is to ensure that the struggle continues and is taken to the higher levels.
Sefora Ntombela is the Deputy President of the ANCWL, Deputy Convenor of the ANC IPC in the Free State Province and the Premier of the Free State Province
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