Thousands of South Africans today are reportedly laying to rest Winnie Mandela, anti-apartheid icon and Nelson Mandela’s former wife, with full state honours at a stadium funeral in Soweto, South Africa.
Winnie Madikizela-Mandela died April 2nd, 2018 in a Johannesburg hospital after a long illness. She was 81 years old.
Tens of thousands of mourners bursted into loud cheers as the casket carrying Winnie Mandela’s remains was wheeled into the Orlando Stadium, less than two kilometres from her home. See photos below.
Graca Machel, Nelson Mandela’s widow, was at the funeral.
Civil rights leader Jesse Jackson, who also attended the funeral, said on Friday that Winnie Madikizela-Mandela was responsible for making the anti-apartheid movement “a global struggle”.
“She never stopped fighting. She never stopped serving,” he told reporters. “She never left the belly of the beast.”
Winnie Mandela’s casket draped with the multi-coloured South African flag was placed in the middle of the 37,500-seater stadium in front of a stage, decked in white and yellow flowers.
The emotionally charged official funeral began in Soweto, where she lived until her death on April 21, aged 81.
Also referred to as “Mama Winnie”, Madikizela-Mandela fought to keep South Africa’s anti-apartheid struggle in the international spotlight while her husband, Nelson Mandela, was imprisoned.
For years, she was routinely harassed by apartheid-state security forces, imprisoned and tortured. In 1977, she was banished to a remote town to separate her from the heart of the movement she led in Soweto.
When Madikizela-Mandela returned from exile she became involved with a group of young men known as the Mandela United Football Club, who were widely blamed for violence in Soweto.
They were accused of the disappearances and killings of at least 18 boys and young men and the group’s leader was convicted of killing a 14-year-old boy, nicknamed “Stompie”, who was accused of being a police informer.
In 1991, a court found Madikizela-Mandela 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, and the sentence was reduced to a fine and a suspended prison term.
Madikizela-Mandela denied any knowledge of any killings.
Mandela divorced her in 1996, claiming infidelity and saying that after his release from prison, his wife made him “the loneliest man”.
Condolences have poured in from around the world in remembrance of Winnie Mandela, one of the 20th century’s most prominent political activists.