Former Reggae Singer Carlene Davis remembers Winnie Mandela
By Howard Campbell
SOUTH FLORIDA – As Nelson Mandela languished in a South African prison during the 1980s, his wife Winnie Mandela became one of the most vocal opponents of Apartheid, the policy of racial division in their country.
Her tireless fight to end that system and free her husband hit a nerve with Jamaicans including Carlene Davis who saluted Winnie with the song, Winnie Mandela, released in 1987.
Winnie Mandela died April 2 in Johannesburg at age 81.
Davis said she was inspired to record the track after read the book, Part of My Soul Went With Him, a biography about Winnie by Mary Benson. The song was written by Tommy Cowan, who gave her the tune.
“The book spoke of her life and marriage to Nelson Mandela and their early years together, their political work, her life after his final arrest and imprisonment to Robben Island and ultimately the release of her husband and a free South Africa,” Davis recalled.
The song was released as a single at a time when international pressure on the renegade South African administration intensified to end Apartheid and free Mandela who had been imprisoned since 1963.
That pressure paid off in 1990 when Mandela was freed. He and Winnie visited Jamaica on July 24, 1991 at the invitation of prime minister Michael Manley whose father Norman Manley challenged the cruelty of Apartheid in the 1950s when he was Jamaican premier.
Carlene Davis met the Mandelas at a woman’s forum in Kingston, the Jamaica capital, and presented Winnie with copies of her heartfelt song.
“She told us that the music from Jamaica motivated them to keep believing in the fight for freedom,” said Davis.
The Mandelas divorced in 1996. Nelson died in December, 2013.
Carlene Davis became a Christian in the 1990s. She is an ordained minister.