President Yoweri Museveni has applauded the Nelson Mandela family for giving all they could during South Africa’s liberation struggle up to 1994 when the country gained independence.
The presidential nod was embedded in a speech read by Public Service Minister, Wilson Muruli Mukasa, at Makerere University, where Winnie Madikizela Mandela, the ex-wife of South African Icon Nelson Mandela, was awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Laws, in recognition of her contribution towards the fight and eventual elimination of apartheid in South Africa.
Winnie, now aged 81, stands out among a chain of activists who kept the anti-apartheid momentum when their colleagues were arrested and detained for more than 30 years. Prior to this momentous journey, Winnie was among over 1,000 women arrested in a demonstration against the pass laws. This is because all black South Africans were required to carry pass card that restricted their movement to certain areas.
During apartheid, she was arrested several times and imprisoned for her activism. For instance, in 1976 during the Soweto students’ uprising, she was arrested and imprisoned for six months and a year later, she was banished to the town of dusty Afrikaner dominated town of Brandfort in the Free State where she was unceremoniously dumped at with her youngest daughter.
In her banishment order, Winnie was given the option of either leaving South Africa for Swaziland or Transkei, which was regarded as independent by the South African government. However, she chose to remain in South Africa, where she continued fighting for the liberation of her people and was at times arrested for defying her banishment order.
According to media reports, there was no running water or electricity and the house had no floors or ceilings. The people spoke mainly Sotho, Tswana or Afrikaans and hardly any Xhosa, which was Winnie’s home language. She spent nine years in isolation.
Such accounts of determination and resilience are captured in Museveni’s account praising Winnie Mandela for a crucial role she played in fighting colonialism in South Africa. Museveni said Ms Mandela remains an important figure in the South Africa community.
Reading Makerere’s citation for awarding Winnie Mandela honorary doctorate, the Principal, College of Humanities and Social Sciences Prof Edward Kirumira said: “she bravely withstood constant harassment by the apartheid regime.”
Her award was received by Gandhi Baai, Winnie Mandela’s niece. Baai who was accompanied by South African High Commissioner Maj Gen Lekoa Solloy Mollo and High Commission staff sang praise for Winnie Mandela after receiving the award.
Makerere University Vice-Chancellor Prof. Barnabas Nawangwe said: “Makerere is privileged to honour one of Africa’s most outstanding freedom fighters.”
Quoting Winnie Mandela, she said, Makerere remains a premier institution to which all Africans continue to look for leadership on challenges facing the continent.