Winnie Mandela was an inspiration to me says Desmond Tutu
With plans underway for her her memorial service and state funeral this week the South African campaigner Winnie Madikizela-Mandela continues to be seen as a divisive figure.
Though revered for her courageous and steadfast fight against Apartheid she leaves a legacy marred by her use of violence against enemies.
Thirty years ago the Truth and Reconciliation Commission heard of allegations of human-rights atrocities perpetrated by her and her personal bodyguards known as the Mandela United Football Club. She would be convicted of kidnapping and of being an accessory to assault.
Yet following her death last week at the age of 81, supporters made it clear that Winnie Mandela herself suffered the full brutality of the Apartheid regime. She was subjected to torture while in prison and carried the damage of her ordeal through the rest of her life.
She acknowledged this herself when in 2014 she commented: “The years of imprisonment hardened me. Perhaps if you have been given a moment to hold back and wait for the next blow, your emotions wouldn’t be as blunted as they have been in my case. When it happens every day of your life, when that pain becomes a way of life . . . I no longer have the emotion of fear. There is no longer anything I can fear. There is nothing the government has not done to me. There isn’t any pain I haven’t known.”
Paying tribute Archbishop Emerituis Desmond Tutu hailed her as a defining symbol of the struggle against apartheid.
He described her refusal to be bowed by either the imprisonment of her late husband Nelson Mandela or the harassment she suffered from the security forces as deeply inspirational to him and generations of activists.
Meanwhile the present Archbishop of Cape Town Dr Thabo Makgoba said he “ admired and respected her” saying: “She certainly played her part with great courage. Yes she made some mistakes — but let us forgive her and honour her for what she did.”
In a tweet the Archbishop of York, Dr Sentamu, said “Life threw the worst at her! She kept the faith and may she rest in peace and rise in glory!”
*Winnie Mandela’s official memorial service will be held at the Orlando Stadium on Wednesday, April 11, and folowed in saturday April 14 with a
state funeral service at the same venue . She will be buried at Fourways Memorial Park Cemetery.