Statement on the Passing of Winnie Mandela

The Government of Antigua and Barbuda has learned of the passing of Mrs. Winnie Mandela, the first wife of Nelson Mandela, who was instrumental in bringing freedom to South Africa. She had been an integral part of the movement against apartheid. For this reason, the unlawful South African authorities banned her and made life very difficult for Mrs. Mandela and her children, during the 28 years that Nelson Mandela was cruelly incarcerated on Robben Island.

Mrs. Mandela seized the leadership at a time when great courage and intestinal fortitude were required. She organized both women and youth who conducted an unrelenting struggle against the wicked system of legalized racism. It was her advocacy—in collaboration with many world leaders—that contributed to the isolation of South Africa. When the Commonwealth Heads of Government convene in London in the coming weeks, Winnie Mandela’s contribution to freedom will undoubtedly be remembered.

The Commonwealth of Nations played a significant role in causing South African teams to be excluded from international cricket, football, rugby, tennis and other sports. Winnie Mandela was banned because of her support for these actions.

Antigua and Barbuda, represented by Sir Lester Bird during those turbulent times, both at the United nations and the Commonwealth, was foremost in its rejection of the apartheid system—especially so in sports. Mr. Bird was a former athlete.

The Honourable Gaston Browne, having learned of the death of Winnie Mandela, has asked that the Government of Antigua and Barbuda express its sympathies to the family of Mrs. Mandela, and to the people and Government of South Africa. The Prime Minister noted that the black South African fight against apartheid was a long walk to freedom which received the support of our tiny country since 1960, when South African wines, foods and other products were banned from entering Antigua by Chief Minister Vere Cornwall Bird.

The fight for development is universal, Prime Minister Gaston Browne noted, and courageous men and women are always called upon to lead when times are challenging—in the past and today. Winnie Mandela was courageous.

Long live Winnie Mandela!

Long live the struggle of the people of South Africa against oppression!

Long live freedom!