Winnie died with spiritual words in her mouth, says her personal assistant Zodwa Zwane

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Zodwa Zwane embracing a portrait of her boss, Winnie Madikizela-Mandela PHOTO:
Zodwa Zwane embracing a portrait of her boss, Winnie Madikizela-Mandela PHOTO:

For about six months, Zodwa Zwane said she could not make it known that she was Winnie Madikizela-Mandela’s personal assistant because she could not believe it herself.

Just over a decade later, she stood before a multitude of mourners at a packed Orlando Stadium in Soweto, sharing her fond memories of the woman she now proudly calls “my mother, friend and boss”.

Speaking at the national memorial service earlier on Wednesday, Zwane said she spent some time asking herself just how she landed the job when instead of being interviewed, the only conversation she had with Madikizela-Mandela was about fashion.

She said the late struggle veteran did mention, however, that she was “comfortable with my age” before she asked her to leave as there were other people to be interviewed.

The next day, on November 2 2007, she got a call. She was hired. She continued asking herself just how she got the job when she had only been complemented on her fashion sense and asked who her fashion designer was before they discussed clothes.

Even if she had not been hired, Zwane said she was grateful to have just met Madikizela-Mandela in person.

“I told myself on that day ... I have spoken to Winnie Mandela, what more could I ask for?” she said.

“It was exciting to serve Mam’ Winnie,” Zwane said.


She remembered two weeks ago while they were sitting watching television at Madikizela-Mandela’s Orlando West house and suddenly, she asked her to contact “my son Patrice Motsepe” and organise for her to attend the Easter pilgrimage at Moria, the Zionist Christian Church headquarters in Limpopo.

“I had already told her that I would not be available to go anywhere with her during Easter because I will be preaching (somewhere else). She wasn’t happy and said to me what would she say to God if she was asked why she didn’t go to church and she said ‘because Zodwa wasn’t going to be with me’. We laughed about it,” Zwane said.

Madikizela-Mandela attended her Good Friday service in Soweto and a day later, she summoned Zwane to her house.

She remembered her hoarse voice from flu.

“I tried to hug her as we usually did but she said no because she had the flu. She then started sharing with me the sermon from the service she attended ... she spoke about forgiveness and as always had tears in her eyes but they wouldn’t roll down her cheeks.

“She said to me: ‘Zodwa, I don’t have tears any more ... I have gone through a lot and my tears won’t come out.’”

Zwane said she also shared with her how she spent five hours in church but still left before the “seventh word by Jesus Christ” was delivered.

“She asked me to share the seventh word with her; (it says) ‘Father unto your hands I commit my spirit.’”

Madikizela-Mandela wanted Zwane to share with her what she preached about at her own church service but she was in a hurry.

“Mama, can we do this on Tuesday please ... I just didn’t know that Tuesday will never come,” she said. Madikizela-Mandela died two days later in hospital.

Zwane said that from their last conversation, she could say that Madikizela-Mandela “died with spiritual words in her mouth”.



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