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POSTED | 16:03 PM | 14-04-2018

South Africans lay to rest ‘Mama’ Winnie Mandela

South Africans turned out in thousands to bid final goodbyes to anti-apartheid icon and Nelson Mandela’s former wife Winnie Mandela who is being laid to rest with full state honours on Saturday (April 14, 2018).

Mourners filled the 37,500-seater Orlando Stadium in the township of Soweto where Winnie lived and erupted into loud cheers as the casket carrying her remains was wheeled in, AFP reported.

The casket draped with the multi-coloured South African flag was placed in the middle of the 37,500-seater stadium in front of a stage, decked in white and yellow flowers.

Mourners dressed in the colours of the ruling African National Congress (ANC), as well as those of the radical opposition Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), sang “there’s no-one like Winnie,” an adapted popular liberation struggle song.

In a moving, yet fiery eulogy, her daughter slammed her mother’s critics.

“It was my mother who kept his (Nelson Mandela’s) memory alive,” said a teary Zenani. “South Africa, and indeed the world, holds men and women to different standards of morality.”

She added that “praising her now that she is gone shows what hypocrites you are.”

“They robbed my mother of her rightful legacy during her lifetime,” she said of Winnie, who she praised for taking on “one of the most powerful and evil regimes of the past century.”

South Africa's President Cyril Ramaphosa, who took office two months ago, offered an apology for the country’s failure to honour Winnie for her contribution to the liberation of the country.

“I’m sorry Mama that your organization (ANC) delayed in according you its honour. I’m sorry that we delayed this much, to this point,” he said in an eulogy.

Firebrand opposition politician Julius Malema, who was expelled from the ANC, but who remained close to Winnie, said “she died a revolutionary... she never sold out.”

As soon as speeches drew to a close, stormy clouds formed over the stadium, followed moments after by heavy rains that drenched mourners and the funeral procession as it drove out to a cemetery 40 kilometres away.

Mourners broke into another liberation song chanting in Xhosa: “This is the Winnie we know.”

The ceremony concluded 10 days of national mourning during which time hundreds of thousands of South Africans have paid tribute to the “Mother of the Nation” at her Soweto home and elsewhere.

Winnie Mandela, who died in Johannesburg aged 81 on April 2 after a long illness, has been celebrated for helping keep Nelson Mandela’s dream of a non-racial South Africa alive while he was behind bars for 27 years.

“She was one of the most profound leaders of the ANC,” said 53-year-old mourner Brian Magqaza. “She fought from beginning to the end. Go well Mama.”

Former South African presidents Jacob Zuma and Thabo Mbeki also attended the funeral. Mourners booed when the presence of scandal-tainted Zuma was publicly acknowledged.

Foreign dignitaries at the funeral include the leaders of Namibia, Swaziland and the Republic of Congo, as well as American civil rights activist Jesse Jackson and international supermodel Naomi Campbell.

Her “steely leadership... gave strength to us all. She taught us not to be limited in our thoughts,” said Campbell.

Winnie will be buried at a privately run graveyard in Johannesburg’s upmarket Fourways suburb where two of her great-grandchildren are also buried.

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