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 another 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, trying to uplift the morale and courage and quell the 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’ has remained largely invisible, even though President Mandela had forthrightly acknowledged it.
In his words, 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).
His comments below on the Vula Communucations System - which Zarina clandestinely operated in its initial stages in Zambia before her serious road accident - further highlights the largely invisible role wives played in the freedom struggle.
‘Dancing to a Different Rhythm’ is Zarina's account of her own parallel, invisible struggle, both before South Africa won its freedom from apartheid in 1994, and in the ongoing post- apartheid struggle to make real the democracy as envisioned by President Mandela and his close co-leaders, giants whose goal of a better country for all its people remains a distant dream .