Winnie Madikizela-Mandela – Soweto Opens Its Heart to Remember a Beloved Neighbour

Busisiwe Brown was not born during apartheid. She did not experience first-hand the cruelty of the apartheid police. But she does know the sacrifices made by those who fought for her freedom.

“I want to thank you for what you did for us. It’s not everyone who could do what you did. You fought very hard, you… I wish that there could be more people like you in this world,” 15-year-old Busisiwe said as if she was talking directly to Winnie Madikizela-Mandela.

Busisiwe was one of hundreds of people from various walks of life who arrived at the Struggle stalwart’s home to pay their respects.

The teenager from Orlando West said she was “deeply saddened” that she never had a chance to meet Madikizela-Mandela to thank her personally for fighting for the freedom she has today.

Madikizela-Mandela, 81, died on Monday at the Milpark Hospital.

Tshepo Kokole from Moletsane in Soweto regrets not getting an opportunity to sit down with Madikizela-Mandela and learn directly from her.

“Mama was a vocal person, especially in making sure that a black person is free in their own country,” Kokole said.

Mogale Kgaje from Tladi, Soweto, said he met Madikizela-Mandela when he was a leader of Cosas and she used to address the organisation about the importance of an education.

“We have lost a brave leader,” said Kgaje.

During the day, members of the Gabola church – a controversial church known for allowing congregants to drink alcohol during services – arrived at the house, reeking of liquor.

“Our mother has done a lot for this world and we are so happy and delighted to celebrate her passing, even though it is painful, but we are paining together with the family (sic),” said Bishop Makiti, a church elder who did not want to provide his first name.

Thabiso Letsoalo, ANC branch chairperson from Ward 21 in Soweto, remembered how Madikizela-Mandela mentored them.

“Mama was one person who used to mentor us when we joined the movement. She is the person we used to go to whenever we had problems,” he said.

Home Affairs Minister Malusi Gigaba described Madikizela-Mandela as an “inspiration”.

“I had the privilege of working closely with her when she was the president of the ANC Women’s League and I was the president of the (ANC) youth league. Mama loved young people and so we will remember her for her humanity and for the simple things she did,” said Gigaba.

North West premier Supra Mahumapelo encouraged South Africans to work and die for the unity that the “fearless” Madikizela-Mandela fought for.

“You need to talk with people from different directions, talk to them openly and after talking to them you have to work practically to achieve unity,” said Mahumapelo.

Deputy President David Mabuza and members of the ANC’s NEC visited the family and signed a national condolences book that has been made available at the home. Other books have been made available across the country.

“As the ANC we want to remind you that the person we are talking about is the embodiment of our Struggle. She is the torchbearer of our freedom; as the ANC we hold this name on the highest beam,” said Mabuza.

Boy Mosia, a vendor in the area and Madikizela-Mandela’s neighbour, said he was “hurt” by Madikizela-Mandela’s passing.

“We used to see her every day, she was a nice and friendly person,” said Mosia.

Mosia, who normally sells boerewors rolls near the Home Affairs department, is doing a roaring trade outside his home.

“Business is running well. I have been here since 9am and things are going good,” said Mosia.

On a regular day, Mosia makes about R600, but since Monday he has been making around R1,000 a day.

Madikizela-Mandela’s funeral will be held on Saturday 14 April. DM

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