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South Africa bids farewell to Winnie Madikizela-Mandela

AP  |  Johannesburg 

Millions of South Africans were saying goodbye to anti-icon Madikizela-Mandela as her emotionally charged official funeral began today in Soweto, where she lived until her death on April 2 at 81.

Thousands of mourners packed a 40,000-seat stadium to bid farewell to the powerful figure who will be buried as a national hero, after lively debate over how she should be remembered.

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

Condolences have poured in from around the world in remembrance of one of the 20th century's most prominent political activists.

Civil rights Jesse Jackson, who attended the funeral, said on Friday that Madikizela-Mandela was responsible for making the anti-movement "a global struggle." "She never stopped fighting. She never stopped serving," he told reporters. "She never left the belly of the beast."

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

UN called her an "international symbol of resistance" whose extraordinary life had an impact on millions of people around the world.

"In 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," he said Friday at a memorial in New York, not mentioning at all.

The young Madikizela-Mandela grew up in what is now province and came to as the city's first black female Not long after, she met African 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 to separate her from the heart of the movement she led in

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, who were widely blamed for violence in

They were accused of the disappearances and killings of at least 18 boys and young men and the group's 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."


Though she fought fiercely for democracy, Madikizela-Mandela floundered in a political career after the first free elections in 1994. Mandela fired her as one of his and her stints as a lawmaker, a post she held until her death, were lackluster.

At her official memorial service on Wednesday, family members and supporters defended her legacy against detractors.

"She gave everything she had," said ANC "For those of you whose hearts are unforgiving, sit down and shut up. This is our hero. This is our heroine.

(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

First Published: Sat, April 14 2018. 15:45 IST
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