South Africa bids farewell to anti-apartheid icon Winnie Madikizela-Mandela | News | DW | 14.04.2018
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South Africa bids farewell to anti-apartheid icon Winnie Madikizela-Mandela

Thousands of people gathered in Johannesburg's Soweto to pay their respects to Winnie Madikizela-Mandela. South African President Cyril Ramaphosa led a pre-burial service for the anti-apartheid campaigner.

The service on Saturday for Nelson Mandela's former wife concludes 10 days of national mourning, during which time thousands of people paid tribute to the "Mother of the Nation" at her Soweto hometown and other parts of the country.

Read more: Who was Winnie Mandela, South Africa's 'Mother of the Nation?'

Thousands of South Africans lined the streets of Soweto Friday as Winnie Madikizela-Mandela's body was transferred from a funeral parlor to lie in state at her Soweto home ahead of the service and burial. 

South Africa's new president, Cyril Ramaphosa, addressed mourners at Soweto's 37,000-capacity Orlando stadium in a pre-burial service.

Madikizela-Mandela's body will be buried 40 kilometers (25 miles) north of Soweto, at a privately managed graveyard in Johannesburg's upmarket Fourways suburb.

The presidents of Namibia and neighboring Lesotho, as well as American civil rights activist Jesse Jackson, participated in the ceremony.

"She is truly the mother of South Africa," Jackson told journalists on Friday.

Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, a leading, yet controversial figure in South Africa's long struggle against the apartheid regime, died in Johannesburg on April 2 after "a long illness." She was married to Nelson Mandela, the first black president of democratic South Africa, for 38 years, 27 of which were spent apart from him during his long imprisonment. They separated just two years after he was released in 1990, and divorced in 1996.

Despite Madikizela-Mandela's long struggle against the white-minority government in South Africa, she was accused of being involved in deadly violence against suspected traitors.

Read more: South Africa: The rise and fall of the ANC

Praise for Madikizela-Mandela

"There were times when people could not afford a funeral and she [Madikizela-Mandela] would assist," said Gloria Searole, a service consultant in Soweto.

"She was very generous. It is a pity that all these things were not known. She was an exceptional woman, she was fearless," the 31-year-old added.

The township of Soweto has a special place in the anti-apartheid struggle that ended the white-minority rule in 1994.

"In a way we feel orphaned but their legacy lives on," said a Soweto gym worker, who had taken time off to visit Mandela's home.

shs/jlw (AFP, AP)

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