A Mama to Many

The life and times of Winnie Mandela

Friend says Winnie’s memories will live forever
Premier says country lost dedicated liberation fighters

As the nation mourns the passing of a titan of the liberation struggle, a revolutionary and a stalwart of Africa’s biggest political party (African National Congress) Mama Nomzamo Winifred Madikizela-Mandela, those who lived and worked with her during her house arrest in Brandfort near Bloemfontein in the Free State continue to embrace her name.

Winnie – as she was well known – died at the Milpark Hospital on Monday after a kidney infection four months shy of her 82nd birthday. For 10 years – since May 15, 1977 when she was exiled with her daughter Zindzi in a sleepy town of Brandfort – Winnie called the place a home and struck a friendship with a now 75 years old Norah Moahlodi.   

She said each and every moment she had spent with Winnie will never be forgotten.“I will always remember her… she will always be with me,” said Moahlodi, “those were the best times of my live as we use to share lots of things together. However, most of the sharing was done by her when she talks about her family and the treatment of apartheid government at the time”.

Moahlodi said their friendship grew when Winnie started having problems with her knee and needed her help.“Something was coming out of her knee and we had to apply for permission for me to enter her yard as she was not permitted to have visitors and under constant monitoring by police,” said Moahlodi.

She said many of her memories with Winnie were captured in pictures she took with her and two letters that Winnie wrote to her. Free State Premier Sisi Ntombela described the passing of Winnie as a loss that has left South Africa, Africa and the world poorer. “Amongst all her contributions to humanity, we will remember Mama Winnie as an astute gender and youth activist. She was dedicated to the struggle for women emancipation as she was dedicated to the struggle for freedom and democracy for all South Africans.

Because of Mama Winnie’s passion and dedication towards the youth, she remained youthful until her last days in the world of the living,” said Ntombela. She said it is important to bow heads in respect and honour Madikizela-Mandela for being banished to House 802 in a small town of Brandfort together with her youngest daughter Zinzi.
ANC Secretary-general Ace Magashule has pleaded with South Africans to focus on the sacrifices the late ‘mother of the nation’ made for the country.

“The ANC lowers it's revolutionary banner in honour of the memory of this great woman who was so loved and reverred and whose name will forever be inscribed in history,” Magashule said in a live broadcast on the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC). “Comrade Winnie Madikizela Mandela dedicated her life to the betterment of her people and she worked for the realisation of that right until the end of her life. She was an inspiration to both young and old,” he said.

Free State ANC spokesperson Thabo Meeko yesterday confirmed that a memorial lecture – in celebration of Mama Winnie’s life - will be held in Brandfort on Monday. “The Provincial Task Team has during yesterday’s meeting, adopted a programme to honour Mama Winnie following instruction from the national leadership. However, the PTT also met with branches of Brandfort and community members in preparation for Monday’s memorial lecture,” said Meeko.

   Meanwhile, President Cyril Ramaphosa has announced that Madikizela-Mandela will be honoured with a state funeral on Saturday next week.‘Winnie was like a mother to me’: Sisulu International Relations Minister Lindiwe Sisulu said Mama Winnie was family.She was speaking outside Madikizela-Mandela's home in Soweto.“My situation is slightly different, she was a member of my family. There was a group of them that were part of the family. I've lost a mother. From the time when all our parents were arrested, she and my other aunt looked after us, took us to school. She's just been a mother figure,” said Sisulu.

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