South Africans mourn ‘Mama Winnie’ at fu­neral

Baltimore Sun Sunday - - NEWS - By Krista Mahr

JO­HAN­NES­BURG — Tens of thou­sands of peo­ple sang, cheered and cried as the flag-draped cas­ket of anti-apartheid ac­tivist Winnie Madik­izela-Man­dela was es­corted from her of­fi­cial fu­neral Satur­day, af­ter sup­port­ers de­fended her com­plex legacy with po­etry and anger.

Thun­der rum­bled and rain fell as the cas­ket left the 40,000-seat sta­dium — a bless­ing, wit­nesses said.

Heads of state joined the five-hour cel­e­bra­tion of the pow­er­ful fig­ure who will be buried as a na­tional hero fol­low­ing lively de­bate over how she should be re­mem­bered af­ter her death April 2 at age 81.

Of­ten called the “Mother of the Na­tion” and “Mama Winnie,” Madik­izela-Man­dela fought to keep South Africa’s anti-apartheid strug­gle in the in­ter­na­tional spot­light while her hus­band, Nel­son Man­dela, was im­pris­oned.

“Long be­fore it was fash­ion­able to call for Nel­son Man­dela’s re­lease from Robben Is­land, it was my mother who kept his mem­ory alive,” elder daugh­ter Ze­nani Man­dela-Dlamini said as the crowd erupted in cheers.

“Proud, de­fi­ant, ar­tic­u­late, she ex­posed the lie of apartheid,” South Africa Pres­i­dent Cyril Ramaphosa said dur­ing his trib­ute. “Loudly and with­out apol­ogy, she spoke truth to power.”

He re­cited Maya An­gelou’s poem “Still I Rise.”

Since her death, sup­port­ers have vis­ited Madik­izela-Man­dela’s fam­ily home in Soweto, the Jo­han­nes­burg town­ship where she lived, and con­do­lences have poured in from around the world.

Jesse Jack­son, the Amer­i­can civil-rights leader who at­tended the fu­neral, said Fri­day that Madik­izela-Man­dela was re­spon­si­ble for mak­ing the anti-apartheid move­ment “a global strug­gle.”

Many memo­ri­al­iz­ing Madik­izela-Man­dela rec­og­nized her as a po­lit­i­cal force in her own right.

“In apartheid South Africa, the com­bi­na­tion of pa­tri­archy and racism to­gether meant that black women con­fronted enor­mous ob­sta­cles from the cra­dle to the grave, mak­ing her own achieve­ments all the more ex­cep­tional,” U.N. Sec­re­tary-Gen­eral An­to­nio Guter­res said Fri­day at a me­mo­rial in New York.

The young Madik­izela-Man­dela grew up in what is now East­ern Cape prov­ince and came to Jo­han­nes­burg as the city’s first black fe­male so­cial worker. Not long af­ter, she met African Na­tional Congress ac­tivist Man­dela and the cou­ple mar­ried in 1958, form­ing one of the most sto­ried unions of the cen­tury.

Af­ter Man­dela was im­pris­oned, Madik­izela-Man­dela em­braced her own lead­er­ship in the free­dom strug­gle with steely de­ter­mi­na­tion and at great per­sonal sac­ri­fice.

For years, she was rou­tinely ha­rassed by apartheid-state se­cu­rity forces, im­pris­oned and tor­tured. In 1977, she was ban­ished to a re­mote town.

It took a toll. When Madik­izela-Man­dela re­turned from ex­ile she be­came in­volved with a group of young men known as the Man­dela United Foot­ball Club. The men were ac­cused of the dis­ap­pear­ances and killings of at least 18 boys and young men and the leader was con­victed of killing a 14-year-old, nick­named “Stom­pie,” ac­cused of be­ing a po­lice in­former.

In 1991, a court found Madik­ize­la­Man­dela guilty of the boy’s kid­nap­ping and as­sault and sen­tenced her to six years in jail. She ap­pealed and was found guilty of be­ing an ac­ces­sory in the as­sault, and the sen­tence was re­duced to a fine and sus­pended prison term. Madik­izela-Man­dela de­nied knowl­edge of any killings.

Man­dela di­vorced her in 1996, al­leg­ing in­fi­delity and say­ing that af­ter his 1990 prison re­lease, she made him “the loneli­est man.”

Ramaphosa said the trau­mas that Madik­izela-Man­dela endured as a tar­get of the pow­er­ful apartheid state in­flicted “deep wounds” that never healed.

“She bore wit­ness to our suf­fer­ing. We did not do the same for her,” he said. “To­day is a mo­ment to heal those wounds. To­day is a time for heal­ing as we put Mama Winnie to rest.”

GULSHAN KHAN/GETTY-AFP

Mourn­ers watch from the stands of the Or­lando Sta­dium in Soweto dur­ing the fu­neral of the late anti-apartheid cham­pion Winnie Man­dizikela-Man­dela.

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