SOWETO Thousands of South Africans paid tribute on Wednesday to Winnie Madikizela-Mandela at a memorial service in Soweto, the township at the forefront of the battle against apartheid and where she is revered for her role in the struggle.
Mourners, many clad in the green and yellow colours of the ruling African National Congress (ANC), danced and sang in a soccer stadium under gray skies.
“‘Mam’ Winnie contributed a lot to our struggle so it’s befitting that we are here today. We came to mourn and at the same time celebrate that we have freedom,” said Lucky Tshabalala, 37, a Soweto native and self-employed contractor.
“She means everything to me,” he said.
Madikizela-Mandela campaigned tirelessly for her husband Nelson Mandela’s release from jail during the years of white minority rule and became a liberation hero in her own right. But her legacy was later tarnished.
As evidence emerged in the dying years of apartheid of the brutality of her Soweto enforcers, known as the “Mandela United Football Club”, some South Africans questioned her ‘Mother of the Nation’ soubriquet.