Thousands mourn Ma Winnie

The funeral of struggle icon Winnie Madikizela-Mandela saw her honoured for her role in the fight against apartheid and leading for black women everywhere.

16 April 2018 | International

South Africans turned out in thousands to bid final goodbyes to anti-apartheid icon and Nelson Mandela's former wife Winnie Mandela who was laid to rest with full state honours on Saturday.

Mourners filled the 37 500-seater Orlando Stadium in the township of Soweto where Winnie lived and erupted into loud cheers as the casket carrying her remains was wheeled in.

The casket, draped with South Africa's national colours, was placed in the middle of the stadium in front of a stage, decked in white and yellow flowers.

Mourners dressed in the colours of the ruling African National Congress (ANC), as well those of the radical opposition Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), sang “there's no-one like Winnie”, an adapted popular liberation struggle song.

President Hage Geingob who also attended the burial service in Johannesburg, gave a moving eulogy to the late struggle icon saying, “You strike a woman, you strike a rock. The enemy struck the woman but was defeated by the rock.”

He said many who had endured and persevered through the fight against apartheid are struggling to come to terms with the fact that they can no long laugh or talk politics with Ma Winnie.

“She was a woman who was the epitome of black female resistance against oppression, racism and imperialism,” he said.

He also reminded all and sundry to celebrate their heroes while they are still alive.

In a moving, yet fiery eulogy, her daughter slammed her mother's critics.

“It was my mother who kept his (Nelson Mandela's) memory alive,” said a teary Zenani. “South Africa, and indeed the world, holds men and women to different standards of morality.”

She added that “praising her now that she is gone shows what hypocrites you are. They robbed my mother of her rightful legacy during her lifetime,” she said of Winnie, who she praised for taking on “one of the most powerful and evil regimes of the past century”.

South Africa's President Cyril Ramaphosa, who took office two months ago, offered an apology for the country's failure to honour Winnie for her contribution to the liberation of the country.

“I'm sorry Mama that your organisation (ANC) delayed in according you its honour. I'm sorry that we delayed this much, to this point,” he said in a eulogy.

Firebrand opposition politician Julius Malema, who was expelled from the ANC, but who remained close to Winnie, said “she died a revolutionary... she never sold out”.

The ceremony concluded 10 days of national mourning during which time hundreds of thousands of South Africans have paid tribute to the “Mother of the Nation” at her Soweto home and elsewhere.

Winnie Mandela, who died in Johannesburg aged 81 on 2 April after a long illness, has been celebrated for helping keep Nelson Mandela's dream of a non-racial South Africa alive while he was behind bars for 27 years.

“She was one of the most profound leaders of the ANC,” said 53-year-old mourner Brian Magqaza. “She fought from beginning to the end. Go well Mama.”

Former South African presidents Jacob Zuma and Thabo Mbeki also attended the funeral. Mourners booed when the presence of scandal-tainted Zuma was publicly acknowledged.

Foreign dignitaries at the funeral include the leaders of Namibia, Swaziland and the Republic of Congo, as well as American civil rights activist Jesse Jackson and international supermodel Naomi Campbell.

Her “steely leadership...gave strength to us all. She taught us not to be limited in our thoughts,” said Campbell.

Winnie Mandela's husband became the first black president of democratic South Africa, but she refused to follow many other struggle-era politicians who moved from townships like Soweto to formerly white-only suburbs after the end of apartheid.

Instead she remained embedded in the community where she met Nelson Mandela at a bus stop in 1957.

Her body was buried at a privately run graveyard in Johannesburg's upmarket Fourways suburb where two of her great-grandchildren are also buried.

The funeral closes the final chapter in the history of a woman who was exalted for her fearless defiance of apartheid rule but also implicated in violence and corruption in later life.

– Additional reporting by Nampa/AFP



STAFF REPORTER

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