The nation pays its final respects to Winnie Madikizela-Mandela

After ten days of national mourning, South Africa will, today, bury anti-apartheid struggle icon and political activist Nomzamo Winnie Madikizela-Mandela.

Madikizela-Mandela’s death has triggered a nation-wide expression of grief and a country’s deep introspection of its soul.

As South Africans sought to understand Madikizela-Mandela’s complicated life in the aftermath of her death on April 2, old wounds of violence, trauma and socio-economic injustice have resurfaced. Likewise, more contemporary questions about the state of a flailing “Rainbow Nationalism” – as personified through the various representations and treatments of Madikizela-Mandela, juxtaposed against her own living politics – have come to the fore.

Hugely popular with ordinary South Africans, many of them still poor and unemployed, the “Mother of the Nation” continued to live in Soweto until her death at the age of 82.

A final viewing of her body at her Vilakazi Street home is scheduled for between 6.30-7am this morning before the convoy carrying her casket winds its way towards Orlando Stadium where the funeral will be held.

The final farewell for Madikizela-Mandela, who in 2016 received an Order of Luthuli in silver for her “excellent contribution to the fight for the liberation of the people of South Africa” has been categorised as an official “category one” funeral by the presidency. It will include elements of military ceremonial honours.

South African president Cyril Ramaphosa will deliver the eulogy while Madikizela-Mandela’s granddaughter Swati Dlamini-Mandela will read the obituary.

Among those paying tribute to Madikizela-Mandela at Orlando stadium will be Economic Freedom Fighters firebrand leader Julius Malema, her daughters Zenani Mandela-Dlamini and Zindzi Mandela and Denis Sassou Nguesso, the president of the Republic of Congo.

Musical items will be performed by Dorothy Masuku, Thandiswa Mazwai and Sipho “Hotstix” Mabuse, amongst others.

The procession is expected to depart for the gravesite at Fourways Memorial Park after 1pm. There the ceremony will be closed to the public but will be broadcast on television.

Madikizela-Mandela’s death has touched all corners of South Africa where memorials have been held on an almost daily basis over the past two weeks.

Likewise, a world once heavily mobilised against apartheid South Africa. The United Nations this week passed a resolution to honour Madikizela-Mandela, as did the United States Congress and various other governments around the world.

Civil rights campaigner and American politician, Reverend Jesse Jackson, speaking outside Madikizela-Mandela’s home on Friday, said her “strength and courage epitomised the Struggle” and that while her husband Nelson Mandela was imprisoned, it was “Mam’ Winnie” who “made it a global struggle”.

Ramaphosa said of her: “She was stubborn on behalf of our people because she knew that out of her stubborn disposition, she would be able to inspire millions of South Africans.

“Winnie Mandela leaves a huge legacy. As we say in African culture, “a giant tree has fallen.”

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Niren Tolsi
Niren Tolsi is a freelance journalist whose interests include social justice, citizen mobilisation and state violence, protest, the Constitution and Constitutional Court, football and Test cricket.

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