On Monday the 2nd of April 2018, Winnie Madikizela Mandela passed away.
After her husband Nelson Mandela was imprisoned on Robben Island (she was separated from him for 27 years) she was kept in solitary confinement for seventeen months.
“For the first 200 days, she had no formal contact with another human being at all aside from her interrogators. The only items in her concrete cell were three thin bug-infested and urine-stained blankets, a plastic water bottle, a mug and a sanitary bucket without a handle… The only other feature of her confines was a bare electric light bulb, which burned constantly and robbed her of any sense of night or day.”*
There was much more in terms of years of isolation and torture, all part of the horror of a system which systematically dehumanised countless people because of the colour of their skin.
Many will say that she had feet of clay… just as all leaders do.
As I’ve been reflecting on her life I’m deeply saddened by what she experienced. I’m also struck by her perseverance, willingness to try to make a difference to those around her, even when the temptation to be consumed by bitterness and anger must have been overwhelming.
As a white South African and a leader in ReachSA I don’t believe any of us can just move on. Her death reminds us of the deep scars, the tragedy and hurt caused by a wicked sinful system the results of which are experienced to this day by those in all our churches.
This is therefore an important time for those of us who love the Lord Jesus to reflect deeply on these things and how in the light of that we should relate to people around us, how we use this as an opportunity to serve and reach out in love.
I can’t change the past, neither can you, but I ask you along with me, to commit to living Spirit filled, repentant lives, that would bring healing, restoration and justice to our land, remembering that the great gathering of Revelation 7:9-10, people from every nation, tribe, people and language will be gathered before The Throne in worship.
That begins here and now in this life.
That will bring honour to Christ.
Written by Bishop Alan Noble