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South Africa's heroine Mandela laid to rest

China Daily | Updated: 2018-04-16 09:50
Military pallbearers carry the coffin of apartheid icon Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, in Soweto, South Africa, on Saturday. [Photo/Agencies]

SOWETO, South Africa - South Africa laid to rest anti-apartheid heroine Winnie Madikizela-Mandela on Saturday, after 40,000 people from across the political spectrum mourned her at a funeral ceremony in her township of Soweto.

Madikizela-Mandela's death on April 2 at the age of 81 after a long illness was met by an outpouring of emotion across the country, with the ruling African National Congress and opposition parties holding memorials to remember her courage in the struggle to end white-minority rule.

The official funeral service for the ex-wife of the late Nelson Mandela took place on Saturday morning in Soweto - the Johannesburg township at the forefront of the battle against apartheid where she lived.

President Cyril Ramaphosa said that, just as South Africa grieved for Madikizela-Mandela, it was comforted by the profound meaning of her life.

"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.

The afternoon burial ceremony at Fourways Memorial Park Cemetery, north of Johannesburg, ended a nearly two-week mourning period declared by the government.

Earlier, mourners sang and cheered as Madikizela-Mandela's body was brought into the 40,000-seat Orlando stadium.

Many mourners were clad in the green and yellow colors of the ANC. Members of the leftist Economic Freedom Fighters party also attended in large numbers.

EFF leader Julius Malema, an admirer of Madikizela-Mandela who echoes her fiery rhetoric, said she had always put the country "above her own personal safety" in the fight against apartheid.

"She lived in constant naked contact with danger, prepared to lose her life, even the lives of her own children, who were put into danger by her political activities," Malema said to loud cheers in the stadium.

Madikizela-Mandela's legacy, however, was later tarnished.

As evidence emerged in the dying years of apartheid of the brutality of her Soweto enforcers, known as the "Mandela United Football Club", some South Africans questioned her 'Mother of the Nation' sobriquet.

In 1991, Madikizela-Mandela was convicted of kidnapping and being an accessory to assault, but her six-year jail sentence was reduced to a fine and a two-year suspended sentence on appeal.

Reuters

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