SOWETO — Former South Africa president Jacob Zuma says the country has lost one of its pillars and strong leader in Winnie Madikizela-Mandela (pictured).
Speaking at Winnie’s home in Orlando West‚ Soweto‚ yesterday‚ Zuma said he was shocked to learn that the mother of the nation was gone.
“I was shocked because she would go to the hospital and come out. It had become a comforting thing that whenever she went . . . she would come back. It was a big shock. It was not just a shock to me and my family, but to everyone . . . It was too sudden.
“. . . Not just a mother to the family, but a mother to the organisation‚ the ANC‚ and a mother to the nation. One of our pillars has fallen . . . She was a leader‚ recognised not just within the ANC but the country and by the world. Not because she was a wife of our leader‚ our icon Nelson Mandela‚ but because in her own name and right‚ she made a contribution to our struggle‚” Zuma said.
Born Nomzamo Winifred‚ Madikizela-Mandela died on Monday at the age of 81 at the Netcare Milpark Hospital in Johannesburg. She died after a long illness‚ for which she had been in and out of hospital since the start of the year.
Zuma said Madikizela-Mandela influenced many oppressed people to fight for freedom.
“There are many, who joined the struggle because they saw her fighting with her husband in prison. She represented many of the mothers, who had their husbands in prisons or in exile, whose names are not known‚ some will never be known. She represented that type of citizen in our country . . . She could not be confused by anything. She was a mother of many. We have lost a mother‚ a leader‚ a comrade‚ a cadre of a special type. No one can doubt her contribution‚ that she did shorten the distance to our final day of liberation. To us‚ it is a big loss‚” (sic) said Zuma.
He added that Madikizela-Mandela had seen it all during her fight against apartheid.
“She had been detained‚ tortured‚ exiled within the country‚ harassed perpetually — but she stood because she knew she was a leader‚ she must be (held up as) exemplary in her efforts to fight for our freedom.”
Meanwhile, Madikizela-Mandela will be given a state funeral at a stadium in Soweto on April 14, President Cyril Ramaphosa’s office said in a statement declaring national days of mourning between April 3 and 14.