Thousands of mourners gathered Wednesday in South Africa for a public memorial service for Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, the anti-apartheid campaigner and former wife of the late President Nelson Mandela.
The memorial in Soweto comes ahead of a funeral service to be held on Saturday.
Madikizela-Mandela died in a Johannesburg hospital on April 2 at the age of 81, after what her family said was a long illness. She was known as the “Mother of the Nation” because of her struggle against white minority rule in South Africa.
Singing echoed round the Orlando Stadium in Soweto township as the mourners, some dancing as they sang, remembered Madikizela-Mandela’s life in a lengthy service. Many were clad in the black, green and gold of the ruling African National Congress political party, some in T-shirts with an image of Madikizela-Mandela.
Among the many to pay tribute were Deputy President David Mabuza, South African Energy Minister Jeff Radebe and Rita Ndzanga, a close family friend and fellow anti-apartheid activist.
Mabuza recalled Madikizela-Mandela as a “unifier and a visionary of note” who had championed reconciliation, and said her lasting monument would be “for all South Africans to unite behind the vision of a united, non-racial, non-sexist, just and prosperous society.”
He also recognized the example she had been to many women. “You taught young women across the nation that they are just as capable, if not more capable, of standing shoulder to shoulder with men and being totally unapologetic about it,” Mabuza said. “Till death, you knew who your enemy was: racial domination, class exploitation, gender oppression.”