Let's honour our heroes, heroines while they are still alive

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We would like to offer our heartfelt condolences to Africa, South Africa and the family of our struggle icon, Mama Winnie Madikizela-Mandela. 

We join the world in celebrating the life of a woman who dedicated her life to the struggle for Africans to regain their right to human dignity and she did this by sacrificing her youth and her children’s right to have a loving mother present at all times. Instead, Mama Winnie was busy being mother to the whole of South Africa and Africa, depending on how one looks at her. 

To us, her propensity to fight for the rights of everyone is what defines greatness. 

The last two weeks saw debate and discussions around Winnie Madikizela-Mandela the person, who was she, was she good or bad? 

Was she a politician in her own right or was it by extension of being married to Nelson Mandela?

But this editorial is not only for Mama Winnie alone. 

It is for the many unsung heroes and heroines who fought for our right to self-determination but have been forgotten figures and do not prominently feature in our history books. 

These are especially the women who actively participated in the liberation struggle, be it by providing logistical support, intelligence or in combat.

We are glad that Madikizela-Mandela is getting the recognition that she deserves and we make that call for all our unsung heroes and heroines to be accorded the same.

It is painful to note that not much recognition is accorded to the young women, called chimbwidos in Zimbabwe, for instance. 

These are young women who cooked for the guerrillas during Zimbabwe's armed struggle. 

These women also risked their lives by gathering intelligence for the comrades and were also used as couriers to smuggle arms from Mozambique to the war front. 

The chimbwidos and their story is a common one in the liberation struggles all over Africa, and southern Africa in particular.   

In Namibia for example, there was one Aguste ya Immanuel (Mukwahepo), who was a forgotten figure until a book about her was published recently. Mukwahepo was the first woman to be trained as a combatant for the People's Liberation Army of Namibia, Swapo's armed wing, in the 1960s. Then there was Putuse Appolus (Meekulu Putuse), a South African woman who joined the war of Namibia’s liberation with her husband and refused to leave the war zone even when her husband returned home to Namibia. 

Then we had Natalia Mavulu, who was the first secretary of the Swapo Women’s Council. 

Her contribution two the rights of women to have a place at the table could also be seen has having been understated.

We do appreciate the founding fathers of our liberation struggles, nationalism and the fight for self-determination. 

Their contribution can never and will not be erased nor down played. 

But history will be lonely for them if our record of history does not put them together with those loyal cadres who acted as their anchors during the long and bitter struggle. 

We need to start giving our unsung heroes and heroines the credit they deserve, not just in death but while they are still alive.

As we bid farewell to Madikizela-Mandela, lets spare a thought for all those who made sacrifices.

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