1986, Soweto, South Africa — Winnie Mandela, the wife of political prisoner Nelson Mandela, looks out from behind the barred gate at her home, where she lived in defiance of a 1985 government order banishing her to the Orange Free State. — Image by © David Turnley/CORBIS

The Militant Winnie has been laid to rest while her legacy will go on being contested in death as in life, Winnie Madikizela-Mandela — an antiapartheid activist and the former wife of Nelson Mandela who was known as “the Mother of the Nation” — was honored with an official funeral in Johannesburg today Saturday .

According to New york Times reporting, Ms. Madikizela-Mandela, who was 81 when she died this month, was to be laid to rest after the funeral, attended by more than 40,000 mourners at Orlando Stadium in the township of Soweto. The funeral was organized by the African National Congress, the governing party that for decades strove to keep her at arm’s length.
The funeral drew luminaries like the leaders of the Republic of Congo, Denis Sassou Nguesso, and of Namibia, Hage Geingob; as well as the British model Naomi Campbell and the American politician the Rev. Jesse Jackson.

Since her death on April 2 from a prolonged illness, the A.N.C., along with its political rivals, has set out to claim Ms. Madikizela-Mandela as one of its own, but it was clear for all to see at the funeral that her friends and supporters were not interested in forgiveness or a rapprochement.

“To those of you who vilified my mother, don’t think for a minute that we’ve forgotten,” said Ms. Madikizela-Mandela’s daughter, Zenani Mandela-Dlamini, in a defiant tribute. “The pain you’ve inflicted on her lives on in us. Praising her now that she’s gone shows what hypocrites you are.”

A fiery leader with mass appeal, Ms. Madikizela-Mandela came to represent a more radical strain of liberation politics than her former husband’s conciliatory “Rainbow Nation” ethos, placing her beyond the orthodoxy of the A.N.C. during the final years of apartheid. But her message resonated with millions of dispossessed South Africans, commentators say.

“As we bid her farewell, we are forced to admit that too often as she rose, she rose alone,” he added. “Too often, we were not there for her. She bore witness to our suffering. She bandaged our wounds. We did not do the same for her.”

Ms. Madikizela-Mandela’s reputation was seriously damaged by accusations that she had ordered the murder of a 14-year-old boy in the township of Soweto — a charge of which she was later acquitted, though she was convicted of kidnapping — and an acrimonious split in 1992 from Mr. Mandela amid accusations of infidelity.

In 2016 the A.N.C. had her presented with one of South Africa’s highest honors, the Order of Luthuli in Silver, for her “excellent contribution to the fight for the liberation of the people of South Africa,” but only since her death has the party made concerted efforts to be associated with her.
“She was the most authentic voice of people’s war against apartheid,” said David Makhura, the premier of Gauteng Province, at the funeral on Saturday. “Her abiding fidelity to the masses and the A.N.C. is the stuff made of legend. Death has not defeated her.’’

Flags stood at half-staff across the country and the government arranged a series of official memorials, including a mass event on Wednesday that was moved from South Africa’s largest Catholic church to Orlando Stadium in order to accommodate the crowd. At that event, the poet Mzwakhe Mbuli hailed her as “the embodiment of courage. The embodiment of resilience. The embodiment of strength.”

“Winnie Mandela is better than the government of the A.N.C. combined,” said Mr. Malema, who is seen by many as an heir to Ms. Madikizela-Mandela’s combative tradition, while speaking at her former home.

At the request of Ms. Madikizela-Mandela’s family, and despite objections from the A.N.C., Mr. Malema also spoke at the funeral on Saturday.

Calling his party “the sons and daughters” of Ms. Madikizela-Mandela, he leveled stinging criticism at the governing party.

“You were persecuted by the apartheid regime and disowned by your own,” he said, to cacophonous cheers. “You didn’t know that your organization had been rendered incapable of loving you back.”

“We know what they did to you,” he added. Then, addressing members of the A.N.C. who had been hostile to Ms. Madikizela-Mandela, he said: “We see you in your beautiful suits. Betrayers, we see you.”


First Posted New York Times

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