Johannesburg - Graca Machel, widow of former president Nelson Mandela, has hailed Winnie Madikizela-Mandela as a brave woman and source of inspiration to all.
Machel paid tribute through a letter to her ''big sister'' and said she was struggling to accept the 81-year-old's death.
''I take solace in the fact that you have risen to become one of the brightest stars in the sky where you will remain ever present and radiantly shining. You will continue to serve as a guide to your loving family, your grateful nation, our beloved Africa, and indeed, the world,''
The anti-apartheid activist and former wife of the late Mandela, died at the Milpark Hospital in Johannesburg on Monday. Madikizela-Mandela died after a long illness, for which she had been in and out of hospital since the beginning of the year.
Affectionately known as 'Mother of the Nation', Madikizela-Mandela is lauded for holding the fort in the fight against apartheid when the apartheid regime arrested activists, including her. She was hounded by state security police and subjected to imprisonment, house arrests and endless banning orders.
Machel said Madikizela-Mandela sacrificed a lot and fought endlessly for the protection of people's rights.
READ THE LETTER HERE:
My Big Sister,
It is with a heavy heart that I address you today. As I struggle to accept your transition, I take solace in the fact that you have risen to become one of the brightest stars in the sky where you will remain ever present and radiantly shining. You will continue to serve as a guide to your loving family, your grateful nation, our beloved Africa, and indeed, the world.
The extraordinary life you led is an example of resilient fortitude and inextinguishable passion that is a source of inspiration to us all of how to courageously confront challenges with unwavering strength and determination. Thank you for your brilliant wisdom, your fierce defiance, and your stylish beauty.
Fortunately, stars shine brightest during the darkest of hours. I know you will continue to illuminate our sky, even through the storms and clouds. Your legacy will be an uplifting beacon from which we can continue to draw guidance and strength during difficult times.
You loved our people unconditionally and sacrificed so much for our freedom. It is my prayer that as befitting tributes are paid to you both at home and abroad, all of us will internalize the values you helped to mould and birth into existence. As a nation, I hope we will stand tall and proud, and as uncompromising as you were in the defense and protection of our rights. As one of our brightest stars, continue to be the lioness that protects your children and your grandchildren. Warm their hearts so that while your transition may shake them, it does not break their spirit.
Your legacy is everlasting. Take a well-deserved rest in peace, my BIG sister.
Love and Respect Always,
Your little sister, Graça
African News Agency/ANA