South African liberation fighter Winnie Madikizela-Mandela laid to rest with songs, tears and cheers
South Africans bid farewell to liberation fighter Winnie Madikizela-Mandela on Saturday in a stirring funeral service at Orlando Stadium in Soweto, with power salutes, tribute songs, tears and cheers.
Supermodel Naomi Campbell choked back tears as she paid tribute to the woman many called the âMother of the Nation.â
âI love you. Thank you,â Campbell said.
The funeral ended more than a week of mourning for Mandikizela-Mandela, one of the last of the generation of revered anti-apartheid leaders who won freedom for their people.
The succession of memorials and parades since her death on April 2 recalled the outpouring of grief in 2013 after the death of her former husband, Nelson Mandela, who became the face of the South African liberation struggle, partly due to her efforts.
The marathon farewell underscored Madikizela-Mandelaâs ability to connect with a young, new generation of black South Africans, demanding radical change to overcome apartheidâs lingering toxic legacy.
Tough, determined, resilient and proud, she withstood imprisonment, solitary confinement, banishment and years of harassment by South African apartheid authorities.
Julius Malema, populist leader of the Economic Freedom Fighters, paid tribute to Madikizela-Mandela this week saying, âSuch peopl e do not die. They live eternally because their seeds always survive the toughest of conditions. The seeds of a tree grew, even in concrete. They are indestructible.â
âShe was rightly seen as the mother of this nation but Mama Winnie was much more than that. She was a heroine of the whole continent, a courageous symbol of resilience for all of us,â Campbell told mourners Saturday.
South African President Cyril Ramaphosa paid tribute to her with the salute, âLong live, Winnie Mandela, long live!â
âShe has been our big Mama throughout our life.â
Ramaphosa said the apartheid regime in South Africa tried to crush her by imprisoning and banishing her to the remote rural town of Brandt in 1997, but it could not do so.
âThey wanted to see her broken, with bowed head and weakened cries, but still she rose,â Ramaphosa said.
âProud, defiant, articulate she exposed the lie of apartheid. She laid bare the edifice of patriarchy. Loudly and without apology, she spoke truth to power.â
Ramaphosa called Madikizela-Mandela a giant, a pathfinder, a healer and an eternal beauty. He said she suffered, often alone.
âThrough everything Mama Winnie endured. They could not break her. They could not silence her.â
When Nelson Mandela spent 27 years in prison on Robben Island prison and other African National Congress leaders went into exile during apartheid, Madikizela-Mandela took up the struggle, he said.
âShe felt compelled to speak out when others were rendered silent. She felt compelled to pick up the spear.â
But the debate that raged on social media and in the comments columns of newspapers this past week underscored the divisions in South Africa over her role. Many argued that she was singled out for unfair criticism because she was a strong black woman. Some suggested a conspiracy against her. Others insisted the darker side of her story should not be brushed aside.
There was a troubling side to her legacy â" including her support for the use of ânecklacingâ by struggle activists during the apartheid era to punish people suspected of being informers to apartheid security police. The practice involved fastening tires filled with gasoline around victimsâ necks and setting the fuel alight.