Winnie taught me that politics was not for sissies – Patricia de Lille

Cape Town Mayor Patricia de Lille at the EFF event held in Brandfort, Free State. (Amanda Khoza, News24)
Cape Town Mayor Patricia de Lille at the EFF event held in Brandfort, Free State. (Amanda Khoza, News24)

Struggle icon Winnie Madikizela-Mandela spoke truth to power to the old and the new regime, embattled City of Cape Town Mayor Patricia de Lille said at a memorial held for her in Brandfort on Wednesday.

"One of the things that Mam' Winnie taught me was that politics was not for sissies. There were no rules for men. There were no rules for women. But she played the rules better than all of them," De Lille said.

Madikizela-Mandela died on April 2 after a long illness.

Although it was hosted by the EFF, the memorial service was a platform various political parties used to show a united front.

It took place in a marquee at the Majwemasweu Stadium in Deeplevel, Brandfort, directly opposite the house in which Madikizela-Mandela lived when she was banished by the apartheid police in 1977.

GALLERY: Winnie memorial - Honouring the Mother of the Nation

An emotional De Lille said she would always remember Madikizela-Mandela's principles.

"The truth never changed. That is how we knew her. She was fearless. She only feared God."

To those whose who criticised the stalwart, De Lille said: "They were the same critics who did not say anything against the struggle of apartheid. Who are they to criticise our mother?"

Another lesson De Lille learnt from Madikizela-Mandela was that politics knew no political boundaries.

During the time former president Thabo Mbeki did not believe in anti-retrovirals (ARVs), she and Madikizela-Mandela marched to demand ARVs, she said.

"I said to president Mbeki: 'Why are ARVs not toxic for the members in Parliament who are taking them but toxic for the poor?'"

She added that Madikizela-Mandela was not only the Mother of the Nation, she was also the flower of the nation.

"Hamba kahle (go well) my sister, hamba kahle our Mother of the Nation. Hamba kahle flower of the nation. You know, she was tough but she would cry with us.

"Mama, you might have made mistakes, but… you understood the struggles of our people…

"We must never forget what Mama Winnie did for us and the sacrifices she made for us."

The EFF's Dali Mpofu described Madikizela-Mandela as a revolutionary.

"You must be prepared to die. If you are not prepared to die, then you are not a revolutionary."

He said, since the formation of the EFF, it was the first time that the party had shared the stage with the ANC. He said the reason why other parties had been invited was because Madikizela-Mandela was bigger than one organisation.

READ: Mama Winnie was 'indeed a saint' – Buthelezi

ANC NEC member Siyabonga Cwele said, while the country and the world mourned the death of Madikizela-Mandela, the country should also celebrate her life.

"Indeed, the Mother of our Nation has fallen. In isiZulu, we say umuthi ebesikhusele kuwo uwile [The tree under which we took refuge, has fallen]."

He said during the darkest hour of our history, Madikizela-Mandela inspired the poor.

She was banished to Brandfort after the 1976 uprising.

"But this hero of our struggle was a servant of the people. She dedicated her life for the betterment of all South Africans."

Cwele said the government was not happy to hear that, during the week of mourning, the community did not have water because of a burst pipe.

"We also heard the story of [her] house and we are very sad to see the state of the house. We were happy when we called the national minister, who said they had several problems with the service provider but they were attending to the matter. All Mama Winnie wanted was to see the plans for the monument.

He was referring to the house Madikizela-Mandela lived in during her banishment.

"This place must remain a tourist attraction and we must keep that house in its original form so that we can all remember Mama Winnie Madikizela-Mandela."

READ: Mama Winnie's life's work of returning the land to the people non-negotiable - Duarte

The Free State government was responsible of preserving Madikizela-Mandela's legacy by converting the house into a museum. But that has not happened.

Today the house stands empty and dilapidated. It is being used by vagrants to carry out illegal activities. 

One of Madikizela-Mandela's friends, Gogo Norah Nomafa Moahloli, 75, said Madikizela-Mandela had brought significant change to the community.

"I have here correspondence written by Mama Winnie about several projects. I was hoping to display these in the museum but there is no museum.

"We, as the people of Brandfort are very bitter that the house has not been made into a museum yet. Even bra Hugh Masekela gave me and mama Winnie LP's, we are waiting to display them but there is no museum."

Moahloli said when Madikizela-Mandela was under house arrest, she was taken in by the community.

"I drove to Winnie on the Easter Sunday, I went to the security and they did not answer and then I told them who I was and they said mama was not well.

"I said it was not a problem. I said they should give me a piece of paper and I wrote to her telling her that I just wanted to say hi and she must get well soon and that we all loved her."

On Monday, when she was watching the news, Moahloli's son called to inform her than Madikizela-Mandela had died.

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