Mama Winnie honoured, at last

Culture shock for Brazilian photographer attending Winnie Madikizela-Mandela's memorial

Thousands of mourners gathered in South Africa's Soweto township to bid farewell to anti-apartheid activist Winnie Madikizela-Mandela this morning, in a funeral ceremony that united the nation as people from various political divides celebrated her life.

He immediately announced that the ANC would consider bestowing on the struggle icon its highest award, Isithwalandwe Seaparankoe, an honour reserved for those who have made an outstanding contribution and sacrifice to the liberation struggle.

"You [Madikizela-Mandela] trusted that your mission of putting the country first was embraced by an organisation that you loved; but Mama, you did not know that your organisation had been rendered incapable of loving you back", said Malema.

He added: "Let us honour her memory (Madikizela-Mandela) by pledging here that we will not betray the trust of her people, we will not squander or steal their resources, and that we will serve them diligently and selflessly", Ramaphosa said. "As we continue to touch her wounds, we must be fearless enough to share her life and legacy across our society and with the people she loved", he said.

"In death, she has demonstrated that our many differences along political party and racial lines and the numerous disputes we may have are eclipsed by our shared desire to follow her lead in building a just, equitable and caring society", he said.

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Madikizela-Mandela was laid to rest at the Fourways Memorial Park Cemetery in Johannesburg. Ramaphossa said South Africa has a painful history which characterizes the current situation in the country with anger.

She also questioned why men in the struggle weren't subjected to the same scrutiny, and said, "double standards obscure the huge efforts of women" in the struggle. She grew to become involved with a band of men after Madikizela-Mandela returned in exile. "They are crying the loudest, more than us - who died for you", Malema said, before lambasting those who he believed had wronged the struggle veteran.

"It was a spear that, throughout the darkest moments of our struggle, she wielded with great courage, unequivocal commitment and incredible skill", he said. Her reputation was tainted by accusations of human rights violations that seemed sometimes at odds with Mandela's fight for inclusiveness.

"It was my mother who kept his (Nelson Mandela's) memory alive", said a teary Zenani.

She expressed her "profound dismay about my mother's public story of the past 25 years".

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Heads of state joined the five-hour celebration of the figure who will soon soon be buried as a hero following debate over how she must be remembered at age eighty one.

"She was an African woman whose words defied the lie of apartheid", Ramaphosa said.

"Mama Winnie's life was about service, service to her people. She protected both from constant assault from apartheid state".

Madikizela-Mandela was married to Nelson Mandela for 38 years, including the 27 years he was imprisoned on an island near Cape Town. "It is important to honour her and continue the fight". He appealed to Malema to realise that Madikizela-Mandela wanted unity and healing among all South Africans. "I know that Julius [Malema, Economic Freedom Fighters leader] will come with me so that we can heal the wounds of those in Marikana". She was one of you.

Much of the national conversation around Madikizela-Mandela legacy has been driven by the documentary Winnie. She chose as her vocation the alleviation of the suffering of others. South Africans stood by the road side as the funeral procession proceeded to the stadium.

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