Thousands of mourners on Saturday joined President Cyril Ramaphosa, several other African heads of state and American civil rights leader Jesse Jackson at Soweto’s Orlando Stadium in bidding farewell to Winnie Madikizela-Mandela who died past weeks at the age of 81.
Ramaphosa said Madikizela-Mandela has left a lasting legacy.
“She lives on in the young girl who today still walks the dusty streets of Mbongweni, resolute that her life will not be defined by the poverty into which she was born, nor constrained by the attitudes to women that seek to demean her existence. She lives on even in the conscience of the apartheid security policeman who has yet to atone for his murderous ways, but whose humanity she sought to salvage and whose dignity she fought to restore,” he said.
Ramaphosa called on South Africa to honour her memory “by pledging that we will not betray the trust of her people, we will not squander or steal their resources, and that we will serve them diligently and selflessly”.
It was viewed as a swipe at former President Jacob Zuma. When Defence Minister Nosiviwe Maphisa-Nqakula announced that former Zuma was at the funeral, he was loudly booed.
Madikizela-Mandela’s daughter Zenani Mandela delivered an emotional eulogy saying the so-called Mother of the Nation confronted one of the most evil regimes in history “and she triumphed”.
Julius Malema, the leader of the opposition Economic Freedom Fighters said there were numerous people at the funeral who had disowned the controversial liberation hero but were now claiming her as one of their own. He suggested that Cape Town International Airport should be named after her.
International model Naomi Campbell who addressed the funeral described Madikizela-Mandela as “a heroine for a whole continent and a symbol of resistance”. “She was a true inspiration for all the people in the world. We are lucky to have witnessed her greatness,” she said.
In 1958, Madikizela-Mandela married anti-apartheid activist Nelson Mandela in Johannesburg. They remained married for 38 years and had two children together.
In 1963, Mandela was imprisoned following the Rivonia Trial; where she became his public face during the 27 years he spent in jail. During that period, she rose to prominence in the anti-apartheid movement. She was arrested and detained by state security services on various occasions and spent several months in solitary confinement.
Nelson Mandela was released from prison on 11 February 1990, and the couple separated in 1992 but remained officially married until their divorce was finalised in March 1996. The couple remained in contact, and she visited him regularly before he died.