‘ANC turned its back on Winnie’
Struggle icon’s funeral a platform for apologies
AS THE world paid homage to Winnie Madikizelamandela yesterday, leaders of political parties in South Africa tried to outsmart each other in paying tribute to the liberation icon in what seemed an apparent jockeying for her legacy.
They tried to gain relevance and mileage out of the funeral of Madikizela-mandela, who died two weeks ago.
EFF leader Julius Malema appeared to live up to his selfstyled image as the king maker, calling on the ANC to name Cape Town International Airport after Madikizela-mandela.
He then tore into the ANC and leaders of other political formations as he sought to remind them that they had turned their backs on the woman dubbed the “Mother of the Nation”.
The firebrand EFF commander-in-chief, who had a close relationship with Madikizela-mandela, fondly referred to her as “mama” during his address. Their bond stretches back to his days as the leader of the Congress of SA Students and subsequently the ANC Youth League president.
Pulling no punches, Malema said individuals who had stood against Madikizela-mandela in the early 1990s were now mourning her death.
“Equally, Mama, some of those who sold you to the regime are here and are crying louder than all of us who stood by you. The UDF is crying crocodile tears after disowning you at a critical moment hoping the regime will finish off,” said Malema, addressing thousands of mourners at Orlando Stadium in Soweto.
Malema was referring to the time when Madikizela-mandela was accused of the death of child activist Stompie Seipei. She was cleared of his death.
The funeral was attended by international dignitaries, including Naomi Campbell and several heads of states. Malema reminded the mourners that Madikizela-mandela fought against apartheid fearlessly.
“You fought for what you believed was right, possessed only by your love for our people and the restoration of their dignity. In this fight you were persecuted by the apartheid regime and disowned by your own,” he said.
Not to be outdone, President Cyril Ramaphosa announced that Madikizela-mandela would be posthumously bestowed with the ANC’S highest honour. “I will make a proposal to the ANC national executive committee to bestow on you its highest honour, Isithwalandwe/ Seaparankoe.” later
Ramaphosa conceded, while delivering his eulogy, that the country and his party had failed to honour and support Madikizela-mandela while she was facing a vicious “smear campaign” by apartheid agents and spies.
“She suffered alone,” Ramaphosa said. He said Maya Angelo’s poem Still I Rise could have been written to describe the life of Madikizela-mandela, as he read it out.
He described Madikizela-mandela’s resilience at the height of the apartheid regime, decrying her pain as she held the fort when her former husband Nelson Mandela and other ANC leaders were in prison and some in exile.
‘’They sought to denigrate her with bitter and twisted lies, but still she rose. They wanted to see her broken, with bowed head and lowered eyes, and weakened by soulful cries, but still she rose,’’ he said.
Madikizela-mandela had been left to tend her own wounds for the rest of her life, said Ramaphosa.
“Left alone to fend for herself only caused her more pain. But she touched our wounds all the time. When we lost our loved ones, when people were in pain, overcome with anger, prone to violence, she came. “We did not do the same to her.” Ramaphosa told mourners about the ANC top six’s first encounter with her daughter Zenani Mandela-dlamini, following the confirmation of the death of their mother at Milpark Hospital in Joburg.
“Zenani’s tears revealed Mam’ Winnie’s wounds,” Ramaphosa said.
Meanwhile, ANC head of elections Fikile Mbalula urged breakaway EFF to “come back home” to the ANC, saying it had been Madikizela-mandela’s wish.
“It was Mama Winnie’s wish for Malema and the EFF to come back to the ANC. We will continue to beg them to come back home, Mama.”
Mbalula said he and other young people had felt the brunt of repression under the apartheid regime, being arrested as the youth in their teens.
“It was Mama Mandela and others who were at the forefront of exposing that. Her love for young people of this country must embolden us to work harder for jobs and education,” he said.
ANC Women’s League president Bathabile Dlamini said the women in the party had not done enough to uplift Madikizela-mandela.
“Mam’ Winnie, we must confess we allowed patriarchy to oppress you,” she said. – Additional reporting by Zintle Mahlati and ANA
Sisters Zindzi, left, and Zenani, right, at the podium, appear on stage to pay tribute to their mother, struggle icon Winnie Madikizela-mandela, backdrop, at her funeral at Orlando Stadium in Soweto yesterday. Madikizela-mandela died on April 2 at the age of 81.