Winnie Madikizela-Mandela. FILE PHOTO: ANA

JOHANNESBURG - The Minister of Environmental Affairs Edna Molewa said on Wednesday that there were times when the late struggle icon Winnie Madikizela Mandela's faith was sorely tested.

"We learn for example that Mama Winnie recounts that her faith was shaken after the tragic passing of her sister and then her mother, when she was still very young," Molewa said during a tribute speech she made at the Combined Women's Manyano at the Welkom Methodist Church in Thabong, Welkom, in the Free State.

Madikizela-Mandela died at the Netcare Milpark Hospital last Monday after suffering from a long illness.

In a speech, Molewa quoted Madikizela Mandela from an interview she had given in 1987.

“"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 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.”

 Molewa said it was Madikizela-Mandela's faith that gave her the power to go on.

"There is not one of us sitting here today who would not have undergone a time of such intense hardship that we were tempted to lose hope, to give up, and to throw in the towel.

"She was one of the greatest heroes of our liberation struggle and even when we attained our liberation, she lost neither her fervour, nor her passion for the cause of the underdog, the poor, the oppressed, and the marginalised."
 
She added that there could be no better place to hold a prayer service and celebration of the life of Madikizela-Mandela than in the Free State, whose brave people had played such a great role in the country’s history.

"It was here in the Free State that Mama Winnie was banished by the racist apartheid government, and where she was sheltered by the community of Majwemasweu township in Brandfort," Molewa said.

"Yet despite the pain of her banishment that lasted nearly ten long years, it was the community that rallied around her, helped her, and even cared for her when she was ill. They lifted her spirits, and came to embrace her as one of their own."
 
Memorial and prayer services have been held around the country to honour and pay respect to the struggle icon.

African News Agency/ANA