Mam Winnie: The stone the builders rejected

The daughters of anti-apartheid activists Nelson Mandela and Winnie Madikizela- Mandela, Zindzi and Zenani Mandela during the official memorial service. (Gallo)

The daughters of anti-apartheid activists Nelson Mandela and Winnie Madikizela- Mandela, Zindzi and Zenani Mandela during the official memorial service. (Gallo)

Winnie Madikizela-Mandela meant wildly different things to different people. As a mother, hers was a fighting spirit. But, she was also rejected.

According to her personal assistant Zodwa Zwane, some of the last words Madikizela-Mandela spoke to her were how she had become the “stone that was rejected”.

Thando Radebe, whose grandfather was the first station commander at Moroka Police Station, explained how she was the only woman that he saw “hustling” on TV, trying to make lives better for others.

An executor from Orlando East, Kgomotso Rakgwathe explained how it was Madikizela-Mandela who kept the movement alive while her husband, former president Nelson Mandela, was in jail.

‘Long live mam Winnie’s fighting spirit’
For many, Winnie Madikizela-Mandela was and will always be just a freedom fighter, but to her grandchildren, she was a foundation of support. Someone who could give advice about how to propose to someone who would dry tears.

Her youngest grandchildren paid tribute to her by sharing how kind she was and how much she loved them.

But for those who attended, the service was about how her story served as a lesson and example of courage and strength.

TC Zulu from Soweto, who herself is an elderly woman, shared her gratitude for the lessons she continues to learn from the Struggle icon.

Madikizela-Mandela’s memorial service saw more individuals arrive to pay tribute to her.

For school children who arrived, it was about the festivity of celebrating Madikizela-Mandela. For her staunch supporters, it was something else.

Bishop Gary Davis who opened the memorial service expressed what Madikizela-Mandela meant. She was the Mother that is “now with God”.

“For as many years as we have seen trouble, may we see your works,” prayed Bishop Davis. And like God did for Madikizela-Mandela “May your favour test us”.

The memorial service was conducted by Communications Minister Nomvula Mokonyane and former Gauteng premier Paul Mashatile.

On Wednesday morning, people travelled from across Johannesburg to attend the memorial service held at Orlando Stadium. The stadium, which sits 40 000 people was half full when the memorial started and continued to fill up as the service went on.

In attendance were Cabinet ministers, notably Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, leaders from the African Union, foreign dignitaries and members of the Madikizela-Mandela family.

The Soweto Gospel Choir, Brenda Mntambo and Nomfunda Xaluva performed.

Gemma Ritchie

Gemma Ritchie

Gemma Ritchie works in the Mail & Guardian's online department. She majored in English Literature at a small liberal arts college in the USA.  Read more from Gemma Ritchie

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