Oprah Winfrey gives her speech after paying tribute to Nelson Mandela and promoting gender equality at an event at University of Johannesburg in Soweto, South Africa, Thursday, Nov. 29, 2018. The former talk show host on Thursday joined Graca Machel, Mandela's widow and an advocate of women's and children's rights, at the Soweto campus of the University of Johannesburg. (AP Photo/Themba Hadebe)

JOHANNESBURG - American media mogul and philanthropist Oprah Winfrey on Thursday encouraged South Africans to take ownership of their lives despite their backgrounds and circumstances, and also take life lessons from global icon, Nelson Mandela.

Winfrey said that Mandela had chosen to fill himself with gratitude for the lessons he had learnt and managed to raised a nation instead of being filled with bitterness, rage and fury for the years that were taken away from him, saying that South Africa and the world was a better place because of that.

"I loved [Mandela] so and he was my favourite mentor because he was a man who could have sought revenge, but instead he sought reconciliation. He was a man who could have and had every right to hate his oppressors, but instead he hated their policies. And he was a man who could have actually crushed his opponents with his power, but he chose to defeat them without ever dishonouring them," Winfrey said. 

"In 2002, I made a decision to come to South Africa to come do Christmas kindness. We took thousands and thousands of books and toys. People said it would not be sustainable. I said but the memory will be. I know not everyone can build a school, but you can take care of someone closest to you. You can ask "how can I be greater than myself?" Each one is supposed to teach one. When you learn, you teach. When you get, you give."

Winfrey was speaking in Soweto at the "Is'thunzi Sabafazi" [Dignity of Women] event organised by the Nelson Mandela Foundation to coincide with the centenary of Madiba's birth. 

Oprah Winfrey entering the hall at the Is'thunzi Sabafazi event in Soweto. MEDIA: Siphelele Dludla/ANA

She also encouraged women to not give up on their dreams, reminding them of celebrated poet Maya Angelou's words that even when they have odds stacked against them, they have the courage of a 10 000 people, and telling them that they were the liberators of this country.

"I want to say a word to the young dreamers. Mandela said a winner is a dreamer who never gives up. I say never give up. It is you who is going to bring about unprecedented innovation. Do not give up, find a way," she said.

"Not everyone can be famous but everyone can be great because greatness is determined by service.Tell your story. There is power in your story, no matter how devastating. There is not one thing that did not happen to you that did not also happen for you. Women are the ones who are going to save South Africa."

Radio and TV personality, Redi Tlhabi, who was directing the programme, emphasised that Mandela said that as long as women are bound human rights will lack substance.

Graca Machel hailed Winfrey's commitment to humanity and South Africa, saying that society needed to take regain its morality and treat women with the dignity they deserve.

"There was a difference between philanthropy and giving of yourself. Oprah gives of herself. Society has to be really human, loving, caring, protective and make our boys and girls to be part of the same values," Machel said.

"Let us make a personal commitment as we leave. Let's make it part of our work to find a way of honouring those who have succumbed to gender-based violence, and ensure that no survivor will walk rest of her life alone. I want us also be humble and remember those who were silenced, they became statistics, they have no name and no face. We have to reject this. Every human being has a value. Every human being has a right to be remembered and valued."

African News Agency (ANA)