Winnie Memorial: Young and old come to honour 'queen' of South Africa

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Finance Minister Nhlanhla Nene during the official memorial service of the late Struggle icon Winnie Madikizela-Mandela at Orlando Stadium. (Frennie Shivambu, Gallo Images)
Finance Minister Nhlanhla Nene during the official memorial service of the late Struggle icon Winnie Madikizela-Mandela at Orlando Stadium. (Frennie Shivambu, Gallo Images)

Crowds streamed into Orlando Stadium on Wednesday morning as the official national memorial service for fallen struggle icon Winnie Madikizela-Mandela got underway.

Most were dressed in African National Congress regalia, while high school pupils and members of various political parties were also among the crowds.

Madikizela Mandela died in hospital on April 2 after a long illness.

LIVE: 'Don’t ever forget her name, she worked hard to get freedom' - Ndzanga at Mamma Winnie's memorial

Mookho Shongwe, 62, told News24 she had come to honour a fellow church member who had supported her and several other women when they lost their husbands as a result of violence between the ANC and the Inkatha Freedom Party in 1992.

Shongwe, a Soweto resident, described Madikizela-Mandela as a "strong woman" who helped them.

'My spirit is hurt'

She said she and other women could not have buried their husbands if it were not for Madikizela-Mandela's help.

"My spirit is hurt. I feel there was so much more she could have done, were it not for a brutal system," said Shongwe.

READ: Man who drove Mama Winnie to the airport so she could travel to see Madiba recalls taking many risks

For Jennifer Steyn, who was decked in ANC colours and a doek, remembering Madikizela-Mandela was about honouring the "queen" of SA.

She was accompanied by her friend, Phumla Shongwe.

"For me, she was a strong and powerful woman. I still feel she could have been president, but today I am just here to honour her and pay my respects," said Steyn.

Shongwe echoed her sentiments, saying Madikizela-Mandela had sacrificed her whole life so SA could experience liberation.

Thabang Khoza, 19, told News24 he had decided to skip school to honour a woman he had never met but whom he had heard about from family members and at school.

"I heard [Nelson] Mandela went to prison and she kept on fighting for us to be free," said Khoza.

Nonhlanhla Mdluli from Rockville in Soweto stood out in her red Economic Freedom Fighters doek in a sea of green, black and gold.

She said she wasn't able to attend the red berets' memorial in the Free State but felt it was important to pay her respects to the woman known as "Mama Winnie".

"She really fought for our rights. I came to honour this woman who fought for black empowerment," said Mdluli.

Matric pupils from Orlando West High school said the liberation hero used to cast her vote at their school, which is located in Madikizela-Mandela's Soweto neighbourhood.

Moleboheng Motswone, 17, said it was important for her to witness this moment.

"We all came to celebrate the life of Mama Winnie," said Motswone.

"I'm always sad when people say she didn't belong to the generation born during the 2000s [but] we love her. She was also our mother," she added.

Her friend, 17-year-old Nolwazi Duma, said the struggle hero would always remain an inspiration.

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