These days, a trip to Robben Island, is a pleasant world heritage site, a must do on the itinerary of any tourist to South Africa's Cape Town.
For years, however, the trip was one to be feared.
Mam’ Winnie’s death has reminded me of all the mothers who had to make trips to Robben Island to visit their loved ones captured as political prisoners.
My late grand mother was one of those women too. Her only son Thabo was tortured and sent to Robben Island in 1976.
As we all know, June 16 was the first day of what came to be called the Soweto uprising. It began there but spread to other townships around the country and continued until year-end in the face of harsh state repression.
My gran, just like the other few locals tell us of the great pain of losing family members and friends, the torture and the emotions buried under 40 years of silence. People simply disappeared or were presumed to have been killed at the hands of the police.
Sometimes my gran would go all the way from Pretoria to Cape Town's Robben Island only to return without seeing her son. That’s just one of the brutalities of the apartheid era.
Even though my uncle was eventually released, he never came back the same person, one can only imagine what they did to him as he never utters a word about that period of his life.
Today my uncle Thabo Nkopodi, roams the streets of Mamelodi, a grown man in his 50’s, unemployed, with no wife or kids because of his ‘disability’. Some people just see him as a delinquent, while others make fun of him when he passes by, not realizing he’s one of our unsung heroes.
Winnie Madikizela Mandela, thank you for being the pillar of light for all the women, especially mothers who went through this difficult time and still survived.
We’ve heard enough tales of men who conquered the struggle, but women’s stories are seldom written boldly.
It was only later in life that I realised what pain my dearest granny went through. Imagine giving birth and not having the joys to see your brilliant son graduate and become a significant man in life.
Worst of all, none of these women ever had the privilege to go for counseling, only God knows how they survived this trauma.
May your souls rest in peace Queens. Your struggles and scarifices will not go down unnoticed, your names will be written in big buildings and will not go down dilapidated.
We will never forget.. Amandla!