Thousands pay tribute to Winnie Madikizela-Mandela in South Africa



JOHANNESBURG, Lynsey Chutel (dpa)– Anti-apartheid activist Winnie Madikizela-Mandela was laid to rest in a state funeral in South Africa on Saturday.
Thousands of people gathered for a ceremony at a football stadium in Soweto to pay tribute to the former wife of Nelson Mandela, who died on April 2 at the age 81. She was later buried at a cemetery north of Johannesburg.



Draped in the South African flag, the coffin was carried by soldiers across a red carpet into the stadium. Madikizela-Mandela's daughters sat stoically, surrounded by dignitaries and officials, as a choir performed the national anthem and their mother's favourite hymns.
"I stand here this morning to both mourn my mother and also, like you, to celebrate her life because hers is one of the most unique stories in recent history," said Zenani Mandela-Dlamini, her eldest daughter and former South African ambassador to Argentina.
Mandela-Dlamini drew attention to the negative publicity surrounding Madikizela-Mandela in the aftermath of her death, which included criticism of her endorsement of violence in South Africa's townships in the 1980s and infidelity while Mandela was imprisoned.
This controversy also led to her isolation within the ruling African National Congress (ANC).
"To those of you who vilified my mother through books, on social media and speeches, don't think for a minute that we've forgotten," she said, with her younger sister Zindziswa Mandela-Hlongwane by her side. "The pain you inflicted on her lives on in us." Mandela-Hlongwane is South Africa's ambassador to Denmark.
In his tribute, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa quoted a poem by the late African-American poet Maya Angelou and said that the ANC should have done more to acknowledge Madikizela-Mandela's contribution to the anti-apartheid struggle.
"As a potent symbol of resistance, as the steadfast bearer of the name 'Mandela,' she was seen by the enemy as a threat to the racist state," he said.
Former South African presidents Jacob Zuma and Thabo Mbeki also attended the funeral. Foreign dignitaries attending included Congo-Brazzaville President Denis Sassou Nguesso and Namibian President Hage Geingob, who both spoke at the funeral.
Other dignitaries included delegations from several African governments and liberation parties, veteran US civil rights leader Jesse Jackson and supermodel Naomi Campbell.
"She had the eyes and ears of the world during those dark days," Campbell said in a tearful tribute.
Members of the Xhosa royal family and Madikizela-Mandela's younger sister spoke of her unwavering support. Madikizela-Mandela's friend and former colleague of 60 years recalled their time as social workers during the apartheid regime.
South African pop stars also performed at the televised funeral. The football stadium was filled to capacity, and crowds were diverted to another stadium where they watched the service live on screen, the South African Broadcasting Corporation reported.
Despite the rain, mourners ran beside the cortege as it left Soweto, making its way to the cemetery in the north of Johannesburg. It was a scene reminiscent of the many funerals Madikizela-Mandela herself attended of activists killed during the apartheid era.
The televised burial took place in a smaller ceremony at the cemetery, which included family, friends and high profile dignitaries.
Madikizela-Mandela is survived by her two daughters, eight grandchildren and 11 great-grandchildren.
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Saturday, April 14th 2018
Lynsey Chutel (dpa)
           


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