South Africa’s Winnie Mandela to be laid to rest in Soweto funeral

Ruling party African National Congress (ANC) member Winnie Madikizela-Mandela attends the nominations session for the new leadership of the ANC's elective conference at the University of the Free State in Bloemfontein, South Africa, Monday, Dec. 17, 2012. (AP Photo/Themba Hadebe)

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Soweto, South Africa ,CNN,14TH APRIL 2018-South Africans will say goodbye to Winnie Madikizela-Mandela on Saturday at an official funeral for the woman hailed as the mother of the nation because of her fight against apartheid.

Crowds packed Orlando Stadium in Johannesburg’s Soweto township for the ceremony, which follows a private service at her home.
Mourners followed Madikizela-Mandela’s coffin in procession into the stadium, where the funeral began with the singing of the national anthem.
Her daughters, Zenani Mandela-Dlamini and Zindzi Mandela, and grandson, Zondwa Mandela, are among the speakers at the funeral. Dignitaries include presidents of the Republic of Congo and Namibia.
Madikizela-Mandela, the former wife of the late Nelson Mandela, died this month in a Johannesburg hospital after a long illness. She was 81.
As one of the country’s most prominent and polarizing figures, she retained political clout long after her divorce from Mandela, the nation’s first black President.
Since the end of apartheid in the 1990s, she served in several government roles, including member of parliament and leader of the ruling party’s women’s league.
“Today we lay to rest our heroine, a struggle stalwart and mother-to-the-nation,” the government tweeted Saturday. It offered free rides for those who wanted to attend the funeral.

Public memorial

Thousands of mourners gathered Wednesday for a public memorial in Soweto, where Madikizela-Mandel lived for decades.
Mourners wore black, green and gold — colors of the ruling African National Congress political party. Others wore T-shirts emblazoned with an image of her.
Deputy President David Mabuza described her as a visionary who championed reconciliation.
“You taught young women across the nation that they are just as capable, if not more capable, of standing shoulder to shoulder with men and being totally unapologetic about it,” Mabuza said. “Till death, you knew who your enemy was: racial domination, class exploitation, gender oppression.”
A man holds up a frame showing newspaper clippings of Madikizela-Mandela.

Mandela’s former wife

Madikizela-Mandela was married to Nelson Mandela for 38 years, including the 27 years he was imprisoned on an island near Cape Town.
While Mandela was imprisoned at Robben Island, she became his voice, providing regular updates to followers hungry for every little detail on his life.
Nelson Mandela with his then-wife, Winnie Mandela, walk out of prison.

When Mandela left prison in 1990, she stood next to him, one hand clasped in his as they raised their free hands clenched in fists — a moment memorialized in a photo that became a symbol of his freedom.
While their marriage withstood the battle against apartheid, it couldn’t withstand the pressure of freedom. Mandela accused her of infidelity and they divorced in 1996, two years after he was elected the first black president of South Africa.

Parliament member

At the time of her death, the longtime stalwart of the ruling party was a member of South Africa’s parliament.
Ramaphosa described her as “an advocate for the dispossessed and the marginalized” and “a voice for the voiceless.” Other civil rights icons from around the world around are attending her funeral, including the Rev. Jesse Jackson.
“Even at the darkest moments of our struggle for liberation, Mam’ Winnie was an abiding symbol of the desire of our people to be free,” Ramaphosa said in a statement. “In the midst of repression, she was a voice of defiance and resistance. In the face of exploitation, she was a champion of justice and equality.”
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