Cape Town - Known for her powerful speeches, Winnie Madikizela-Mandela took a different direction on Wednesday night as she addressed guests at her birthday celebration.
Madikizela-Mandela turns 80 on September 26. On Wednesday she arrived in Cape Town to celebrate her birthday at the Mount Nelson Hotel.
She had guests laughing through her “thank you” speech and started by thanking everyone, saying “because of my age I am allowed to say all protocol observed”.
“I have to keep pinching myself to find out whether I am really still alive.”
Keeping to the speech, Madikizela-Mandela said that she was not going to take a dig at the political atmosphere in the country.
“I am not going to say anything about Marikana today... and I am not going to talk about the leadership in the country and the weakening rand.”
She shared several moments with some of her guests, including Julius Malema, when she said: “I hope now you will stop asking that people must bring things back.” Malema responded that they already have brought things back.
The former wife of late president Nelson Mandela was also joined by Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa, Minister of Higher Education and Training Blade Nzimande and Cape Town mayor Patricia de Lille in the celebrations.
The party was also attended by musical couple Letta Mbulu and her husband, Caiphus Semenya, as well as musician Thandiswa Mazwai ,who will also be performing in a concert in her honour to be held at the Artscape on Thursday night.
Before Madikizela-Mandela spoke, her daughter Zindzi Mandela shared stories about how much she had learnt from her.
“I want to say, I can’t imagine what I would have been without you. You held me up and gave me hope even when you knew tomorrow would be dreary. I am so highly motivated and driven and I am grateful to you for some of my genes I got from you.”
“You are the most amazing woman and I am so humbled and honoured to be your daughter.”
Madikizela-Mandela’s grandson, Zondwa Mandela, said there was no better way to celebrate his grandmother’s birthday.
“There is no better way to honour her and show her we love and appreciate her. She is very humble and this is the time for her to acknowledge what she has done for South Africa and the rest of the world.”
Zondwa, the son of Madikizela-Mandela’s first daughter Zindzi, said having the celebration in Cape Town augmented the special event.
“Cape Town history is different and it is high time we reshape it and also there is no better way to make her accessible to the people.”
In his speech Ramaphosa commented on Madikizela-Mandela’s beauty and her tenacity and ended by reciting Maya Angelou’s poem Still I Rise.
“Many of us remember how constant she was, even when we read about her in the 1950s and 1960s, she was constant, and she remains constant. She has lived a beautiful life and went through victories and setbacks.”
Ramaphosa said that Madikizela-Mandela’s life demonstrated that women cannot be broken.
“She has been a diamond; built to last, built to shine and built never to break.”
He added that she has always been there for people outside of her political life and made examples of how she helped when there were disasters.
“Whenever people faced a challenge, Mama Winnie was among the first to arrive. She did not only give them words but she gave them hope and encouragement and also physical help.”
Ramaphosa thanked Madikizela-Mandela for her leadership and wished her many more years to come.
“From your life we know what it means to stand for justice and to be faithful and loyal, and that women can do it and have been able to play a role in shaping the history of our country. You remain the dream and hope of our future generations.”
“We thank you for your leadership and your suffering, and we will continue to honour you, love you and hold you in high regard.”
Minister of Home Affairs Malusi Gigaba said Madikizela-Mandela was like a mother to everyone.
“She is a freedom fighter and is an uncompromising fighter. She blends together her fierce freedom fighter and the warmth of a mother.”
He said she belonged to a generation of freedom fighters that believed in fighting for their country. He ended with wishing her a happy birthday. “It is given to special people to live that long. We wish her peace and joy and eternal happiness. Our love and support will keep her young.”