Winnie Madikizela-Mandela honoured with Freedom of City

Winnie Madikizela-Mandela during an interview with the City Press newspaper at her home in Soweto in 2010. (Photo by Gallo Images/City Press/Leon Sadiki)
Winnie Madikizela-Mandela during an interview with the City Press newspaper at her home in Soweto in 2010. (Photo by Gallo Images/City Press/Leon Sadiki)

The family of late struggle icon Winnie Madikizela-Mandela were emotional and sad when Freedom of the City was awarded posthumously to the Mother of the Nation.

"Obviously to us as the family, it's an emotional time and I think that the fact that the award [has been given to] her posthumously, is also something that is quite sad for us. But nevertheless, we do understand that sometimes it's better late than never," granddaughter Zamaswazi Dlamini-Mandela said.

The City of Johannesburg on Tuesday conferred the accolade during the 5th special meeting at the Johannesburg Council Chambers.

Madikizela-Mandela died on April 2 and the Freedom of the City was awarded to her just a day before what would have been her birthday.

Her granddaughter said: "It's a good way to celebrate her and her life and her achievements, what she gave up and what she sacrificed, not only for us as a family, but for her own personal life," Dlamini-Mandela said.

Madikizela-Mandela's two daughters Zenani and Zindziswa Mandela, received it on behalf of their mother.


Dlamini-Mandela added that she knew that her grandmother would have said that the honour was not just for her alone but for all the other women she fought with.  

The Freedom of the City is given every two years and is recognised as the highest honour that the council can confer upon an individual or group. 

It has also been posthumously conferred on the likes of Walter Sisulu, Nelson Mandela, Joe Slovo, Beyers Naude and Lillian Ngoyi. In 2016, it was given to Andrew Mlangeni.

Council speaker Vasco da Gama opened the meeting by saying that Mama Winnie was an obvious candidate to receive the accolade.

"She made sacrifices for the sake of freedom, endured imprisonment and beatings, was separated from her family, yet she endured. When the dust of the democratic struggle settled, she emerged with grace and dignity...," Da Gama said. 

He added that Madikizela-Mandela's contribution to the city and country at large was one that should be hailed and recognised. 

Executive Mayor Herman Mashaba said Madikizela-Mandela's consistency over the many years, despite threats to her life and family, was a testament to her "unflinching belief in the ideal of total emancipation for the majority [of] black citizens of this country".

"We do this in order to create a holistic picture of a woman, who was of her time and who espoused the best of us and, perhaps, the worst of our excesses," Mashaba said. 

He said Mama Winnie's dream for a democratic South Africa, however, remained "deterred".

Mashaba also proposed that the council expedite the naming of the chambers after Madikizela-Mandela, saying it would honour her many years of suffering under the brutality of the apartheid government. 

Council members from the ANC, DA, EFF and other parties also acknowledged how relevant it was for the chamber to confer the Freedom of the City on Madikizela-Mandela, describing her as well-deserving. 

Madikizela-Mandela's grandson Zondwa Mandela said the family welcomed the accolade.

"It's important to share with you that as a family, we are in fact the custodians of a near legacy…, as presented by both Nelson Mandela and Winnie Madikizela-Mandela."

Mandela said that acknowledging all those who contributed to the freedom all South Africans now was something that should be celebrated proudly and boldly.

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