‘Winnie showed that you don’t need a gun or be a man to liberate SA’

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Winnie Madikizela-Mandela attends the ANC Women’s League celebration for her 80th birthday. Picture: Felix Dlangamandla
Winnie Madikizela-Mandela attends the ANC Women’s League celebration for her 80th birthday. Picture: Felix Dlangamandla

The family of struggle hero Winnie Madikizela-Mandela was in shock on Monday afternoon after she passed away unexpectedly at Milpark Hospital in Johannesburg.

She was 81.

Madikizela Mandela’s step-granddaughter, Ndileka Mandela, told City Press that she was admitted to the hospital on Sunday night.

At a press conference late Monday afternoon, Methodist Church Minister Gary Rivas said Madikizela-Mandela was at church on Friday in Soweto, and again at church on Sunday, celebrating Easter.

A family spokesperson at the press conference asked for the media and other South Africans to bear with them because they had not expected her to pass so suddenly.

“As a family, none of us predicted this. Our grandmother played an important role to all of us. It is a tragic loss. We would like to send our condolences to everyone who loved and supported her and the family,” he said.

Energy Minister Jeff Radebe said Madikizela-Mandela had “dedicated most of her life to the cause of our people. As the ANC we dip our revolutionary banner,” he said.

“We urge all those who loved her to celebrate a most remarkable South African woman.”

Radebe said the government would release the details of her memorial and funeral service once those details had been finalised.

ANC national chairperson Gwede Mantashe said the ANC was at the hospital to give their condolences to the Mandela and Madikizela families.

He said President Cyril Ramaphosa would visit the family home in Orlando West, Soweto, on Monday evening.

“Mam Winnie was one of very few stalwarts we have left. And one of those who tell us exactly what was wrong or right at any time. We will be missing that,” he said. “She provided guidance.”

Rivas said he spent time with the family this morning in prayer and, shortly after 1pm, they received a call to inform them that Madikizela-Mandela had passed away.

“On Good Friday she was at church in Soweto. Easter Sunday was spent worshipping at her church in Soweto. An icon is laid to rest, and we thank God for her life,” he said.

In an interview with eNCA, United Democratic Front leader Bantu Holomisa described Madikizela-Mandela’s passing as “shocking news”.

He said Madikizela-Mandela was a woman “who has done a lot of work for this country”.

“Winnie in the struggle taught us a lot and also a lot of South Africa that you don’t have to carry a weapon to achieve your objectives. But you can stand in front of the enemy and speak your mind,” he said.

“When Madiba was arrested, Winnie took the torch and carried on. She was ridiculed. But she showed the women of South Africa that you don’t have to carry a gun or be a man in order to liberate this society.”

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