ANC national executive committee member Tony Yengeni did not take kindly to negative criticism of struggle stalwart Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, who died in hospital on Monday.
“You don’t kick a dog while he is down,” he said outside Madikizela-Mandela’s Soweto home on Thursday, pointing out that leaders should not make negative comments about someone who has died.
“In the last few days, we had people making statements against [Winnie Madikizela-Mandela] when she is no more, when she can’t respond. Some of us are very hurt by that,” Yengeni said.
He was referring to comments former president Thabo Mbeki had made during an interview with the SABC.
Mbeki said that some of the decisions and comments that Madikizela-Mandela had made during her struggle against apartheid were wrong. He also said the controversial Mandela United Football Club, that was linked to the stalwart, had tainted her legacy.
But Yengeni said the comments were unfortunate because he was an elder and he expected better from him.
In African custom, when somebody dies, that person is given respect and dignity, he said.
‘We do not cast aspersions’
It was a time to mourn, he added.
“We do not cast aspersions on the integrity of anyone. The statements we have heard from certain leaders are worrying us.”
Madikizela-Mandela died on Monday at the age of 81, after a long illness.
Yengeni described her as fearless: “If there are saints in this world, she is a saint.”
On Thursday afternoon, a large crowd of ANC Women’s League members clad in their regalia sang songs and danced outside Madikizela-Mandela’s home.
ANC deputy president David Mabuza said Madikizela-Mandela should be given the highest praise and honour.
“The leader we are talking about is the proud bearer of the scars of our liberation. We owe it to her for our freedom,” Mabuza said.
He added that all political parties were welcome to visit the family and said Madikizela-Mandela belonged to the people of the country.
“Everything that is going to be done in this house, we hope it is going to be done with the necessary respect for her.”
Congress of the People (COPE) leader Mosiuoa Lekota said they came to offer their condolences to one of the best South Africans who served the people with distinction.
“We convey our condolences to the family, but we must also convey our condolences to the community as a whole.
Responding to a question about his move to COPE, Lekota said: “In [the] tradition of our people, it doesn’t matter [if] we [are] friends or not. When another human being has died, all of us go and bury. There is no point in adopting aggressive attitudes.”
The memorial service is scheduled to take place on April 11, and the NEC has officially launched a condolence book.
The state funeral is expected to be held at Orlando Stadium on April 14.