‘It was like she knew that God will call her’
A few days before she died, Winnie MadikizelaMandela invited the women of her church to her house.
In what she considers to be a premonition, Vivi Hlatshwayo (65) said Madikizela-Mandela had, on Good Friday at the Wesley Methodist Church in Meadowlands, asked the women of uManyano, the women’s prayer and service union, to pay her a visit this week.
“It was like she knew that God will call her. She shook hands, hugged and kissed almost everyone until her bodyguards asked her to stop because she was tired,” she said.
“I think God was whispering in her ear that she would depart. Now our visit will be to give her a send-off and hang her blouse on the wall, to symbolise that she was God’s soldier. That blouse will be displayed among other decorations she has earned for activism.”
Hlatshwayo belted out Madikizela-Mandela’s favourite hymn, Nzulu Yemfihlakalo, and said she always asked for it to be sung.
“She did not consider herself different from other congregants, like others do. She liked to say she’s the ‘mother’ to all of us, not only of the nation. We didn’t lack anything and we knew that we could depend on her when we wanted help with food donations and other necessities,” she said.
“We were proud to have her in our church and showed off to other churches.”
Madikizela-Mandela contributed towards the burial of Hlatshwayo’s relative in 2007.
“I told her that I had a problem and I was not able to bury my relative. Without questioning me, she said she would help. She provided a coffin and food. I was overjoyed,” she said.
Hlatshwayo said Mama Winnie’s generosity earned her the name “Bosso” among congregants.
“She did not hold back from giving. She sacrificed herself for all of us – the nation and the church. She put others ahead of herself.”
Madikizela-Mandela did not impose herself or her politics on congregants, said Hlatshwayo, and participated as an ordinary member.
“People who say bad things about her are doing so because of hatred. We know her differently. She was like a carpet. A down-toearth person,” Hlatshwayo said.
Mama Winnie’s class leader in uManyano, Florence Melamane, said she was the last person to talk to her before she left church on Friday. She said the icon was “not herself”.
“She was not the Winnie I know. When she left church she looked tired. You could see she was sick. Other ladies in the church had to physically support her,” she said.
Madikizela-Mandela was always flanked in the pews by her bodyguards in church.
“She always had a smile and looked happy. She would jump like we usually do when we are singing but last weekend she did not. Before she left, she smiled as usual. She gave me a kiss and a hug and told me that she remembers her class number 27 and left,” Melamane said.
Vivi Hlatshwayo singing Winnie’s favourite hymn, Nzulu Yemfihlakalo, at her home in Meadowlands, Soweto