JOHANNESBURG, April 11 – Late anti-apartheid struggle icon Winnie Madikizela-Mandela was a unifier who became a face of the struggles faced by black women all the world, Deputy President David Mabuza said as he paid tribute to the woman dubbed the ‘Mother of the Nation’ on Wednesday.
“Her activism cuts across the distinctions of gender, race and class. She was committed to the attainment of all human rights for all people. Her only preoccupation was to serve humanity in its totality,” he said as he addressed mourners at the memorial service for former president Nelson Mandela’s second wife held at Orlando Stadium, Soweto.
“She triumphed to lead a life of reconciliation, and the reconstruction and renewal of our society.”
Madikizela-Mandela, who died in Johannesburg aged 81, was one of “those indestructible rocks that apartheid struck when it sought to denigrate,abuse and oppress women in our society”, said Mabuza.
He added that Madikizela-Mandela, who qualified as a medical social worker 60 years ago at the Jan Hofmeyer School of Social Work, epitomised her profession in the way she lived her life through the height of apartheid.
“The need for more social workers of her calibre who will place the betterment of our society ahead of their personal well-being remains a necessity.”
Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) leader, Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi, on Wednesday praised the personal sacrifices that anti-apartheid struggle icon Mama Winnie Madikizela-Mandela made for the liberation of South Africa, referring to her as a “big tree” that “has fallen”.
“Fellow South Africans, a very big tree has fallen and our nation mourns. Mama Winnie will be remembered all over the world as the Mother of the Nation,” Buthelezi said.
“Mama Winnie didn’t know that her kids would be orphans when both of them were alive due to imprisonment. Her personal sacrifices for our freedom are celebrated all over. It is remarkable to see the women that Winnie’s daughters have become in spite of all their challenges. They are so like her in courage and resilience.”
Buthelezi said it was his late cousin, who was a bishop, that first used the title ‘Mother of the Nation’ to describe Madikizela-Mandela.
He was speaking at the official memorial service of Madikizela-Mandela where thousands of mourners gathered at Orlando Stadium in Soweto.
“Winnie was more than just Madiba’s wife, she was a passionate ambassador of justice. She was prepared to walk the path of collision with injustice. I admired her tremendously. We express our sympathy to the family. I send my condolences to the President and the family of the ANC,” Buthelezi said.
“We will miss her in time to come. But the deeper sorrow is left for her family. May you find strength in the words of admiration coming from all corners of the world for your beloved mother.”
In the end, Buthelezi asked all the men in the stadium to stand and salute Mama Winnie with her clan name, “Ah, Nobandla”, a touching moment for many opposed to patriarchy as the salutation is usually reserved for men.
Madikizela-Mandela died on Easter Monday in a Johannesburg hospital. She was 81. She will be laid to rest on Saturday in Johannesburg following a funeral service in Soweto.