Those whose partners had to be away from home to be in the front lines to carry South Africa’s struggle for freedom forward were in a struggle of their own: to keep family and home intact by keeping hope alive in the face of uncertainty about the safety and survival of their loved ones, by trying to uplift the morale and courage (and absent-father syndrome) of their children.
This struggle, referred to by Professor Fatima Meer, women's leader, sociologist and author as ‘the 'parallel struggle' of the family waged by the women and the children’ still remains largely invisible, even though President Mandela has forthrightly acknowledged it.
He says, for example: ' We are ... indebted to Mac's wife, Zarina, and their children - and to the families of all comrades - for the contribution they made. Were it not for their selfless support when husbands and fathers were away, often in very uncertain circumstances, for their bearing with the uncertainty, for absorbing the pain of loss and the loneliness of separation, our struggle would never have stayed the course. In our absence they became our surrogates, and the contribution they made to the struggle for freedom is no less than ours.' (p.19 of President Mandela's foreword to ’ Shades of Difference - Mac Maharaj and the Struggle for South Africa by University of Massachusetts Professor of History, Padraig O’Malley, Penguin, 2007).
‘Dancing to a Different Rhythm’ is Zarina's own account of this parallel, invisible struggle, both before South Africa won its freedom from apartheid in 1994, and in the ongoing struggle post-apartheid to attain the democracy envisioned by President Mandela and the co-leaders of his time, giants whose dream of a better country for all its people is yet to be realised.