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Black South Africans Working Hard to Protect Winnie Mandela’s Legacy from Racists

In the wake of her death, Black South Africans are doing their best to protect the memory and legacy of revered anti-apartheid activist Winnie Mandela.

Mandela died Monday, April 1, at the age of 81. The woman who many South Africans described as the “Mother of the Nation” and a champion for the nation’s Black majority passed away peacefully, “surrounded by her family and loved ones,” relatives said in a statement.

Mandela, the second wife of activist Nelson Mandela, made quite the career fighting against South Africa’s white minority. Her reputation was muddied by scandal, however, including a 1991 conviction for kidnapping and assault. But many South Africans say they will not allow her memory to be sullied by racists who chose to focus in on her transgressions rather than her toil on behalf of Black South Africans.

“The mainstream Western media’s depiction on Winnie Mandela should be a lesson to Black women everywhere to be the custodians of their own memory, because through racist and sexist eyes we will all either be monsters or invisible,” South African poet Lebogang Mashile wrote in a tweet amid news of Mandela’s death.

During an appearance on South Africa’s eNCA network, Mashile said she wrote the tweet in response to a Reuters article that chronicled Mandela’s fall from “Mother” of South Africa to the “mugger” of South Africa.

“I was infuriated by that,” she said. “I just realized how relentless racism and sexism are. The same forces that sought to trample her while she was alive are now seeking to trample her memory and cannonize her as a monster.”

“She was so much more that whatever her flaws were,” Mashile added, pointing out how society allows male leaders to be flawed but doesn’t extend the same courtesy to female leaders.

Several critics also took to Twitter to voice their frustration over attempts by racists and the western media to soil the late activist’s memory.

Mandela will be laid to rest at an official national funeral on April 14.

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