Thousands of mourners flocked Wednesday to the heart of South Africa’s sprawling Soweto township, a centre of anti-apartheid resistance, to pay tribute to Nelson Mandela’s former wife and struggle hero Winnie Mandela.
Her grandson Bambatha Mandela described Winnie, who died on April 2 after a long illness, as “an extraordinary woman, a mother, a soldier, a fighter”.
“Even at 81 (she) was one person I thought would live forever,” he said in an emotional tribute. “I had the privilege of being the first grandchild they could raise after (Nelson Mandela) returned from prison.”
The choice of Soweto’s 37,000-capacity Orlando stadium for both the memorial service and the full state funeral planned for Saturday was highly symbolic.
Unlike many struggle-era leaders who moved from townships like Soweto to formerly white suburbs after apartheid fell, Winnie Mandela remained embedded in the community where she met Nelson Mandela at a bus stop in 1957.
“She could have gone to the suburbs like many of us did, but she chose not to,” Bambatha said. Read more