ORDINARY members of the public and dignitaries alike agreed when they gathered in Soweto yesterday that without Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, South Africa would not have known freedom.
“She’s been our mother, the mother of the nation,” said Social Development Minister Susan Shabangu as she arrived at the Orlando Stadium yesterday morning, shortly before the official memorial service for Madikizela-Mandela, who died last Monday, got underway.
“For us, coming from Soweto, Orlando, she was an inspiration, even as young girls. There were lots which we learned from her, even when she was banned,” said Shabangu.
Shabangu said they drew a lot of strength from “her vicious fight against apartheid”.
Shabangu said that Madikizela-Mandela was one of the first women consulted in 1979 when the African National Congress instructed them to resurrect the women’s movement.
“[She was] one of the women who groomed us and taught us discipline. We’ll miss her. While she was sick, we didn’t expect her to leave us so early. But may her soul rest in peace. South Africa will lose a lot.
“She has been our icon, our internationalist, an activist and always there for the poor.”
ANC chief whip Jackson Mthembu said that the death of another struggle stalwart, Zola Skweyiya, yesterday morning, was “adding another pain to this pain that we’re experiencing”.
He described Madikizela-Mandela as someone who spoke her mind. “She defied everything apartheid threw at her. They threw raids, they threw detention without trial, they threw at her solitary confinement, they threw at her banishments, they threw at her house arrests, they threw at her torture,” Mthembu said.
“I’m convinced without the likes of Mam’ Winnie, our freedom would not have come. Without her sacrifice, her daily sacrifice, her yearly sacrifice, the freedom that we all enjoy today would not have come and we would like to thank her very much for this freedom, because she contributed with her life, by the way, for the freedom that we enjoy today.”
It wasn’t only the politicians who honoured her memory, but members of the public also spoke fondly of Madikizela-Mandela’s contribution toward a free SA.
“I’m here to commemorate the memory of Winnie Madikizela-Mandela,” Puna Tetyana told News24. “I’m here to respect her.”
Kobela Kumalo said: “This is close to my heart”. “I’ve grown [up] seeing her achieving miracles. I’ve never seen that resilience in a woman ...”