Mourners attend a memorial service for Winnie Madikizela-Mandela at Orlando Stadium in Soweto. Picture: Siphiwe Sibeko/Reuters
Mourners attend a memorial service for Winnie Madikizela-Mandela at Orlando Stadium in Soweto. Picture: Siphiwe Sibeko/Reuters

#WinnieMandelaMemorial: Read David Mabuza's full speech

By Deputy President David Mabuza Time of article published Apr 11, 2018

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The full text of the speech delivered by Deputy President David Mabuza during the memorial service for struggle icon Winnie Madikizela Mandela at Orlando Stadium in Soweto.

The Madikizela and Mandela Families,

Mrs Graca Machel and children,

Friends and relatives of Mama Winnie Madikizela-Mandela,

Fellow Mourners,

The Mother of Nation is gone. When she passed on, we heard the skies weeping as if to mirror the emotions felt by the nation and the world.

Though gone from the human eye, the black fortress of human dignity cannot be erased from the grieving heart of Africa.

Because you were the tender heart of poets and sweet melody of musicians, in a thousand years our children will return here and say, we love you without reservation Winnie Madikizela Mandela. 

Nomzamo wethu. Nomzamo wabantu…You are the ancient gift of our ancestors and the undying promise of our children.

The raised fist of power and battle cry of Amandla has returned quietly to your chest. Now the palm of your tender hand must shield your delicate heart that has ceased to beat.

In letting go, we surrender to the call of the universe that it is time our ancestors wiped the tears etched in your soul which in life you refused to shed.

Nomzamo wethu, only newborn babies will open our eyes to the true wonder and fortune of our generation.  

They will say blessed are we who in our lifetime had a fine-looking African goddess living in our midst.

Unborn babies will envy us for our blessing of having seen, touched, and felt the love of you Nomzamo we sizwe.

Bone of our bones, flesh of our flesh, spirit of our ancestors, you strode like a gentle titan allowing us to state that the children of Africa are also sons and daughters of a Mighty God.

In life, you reminded our daughters and mothers that it is them who are powerful beyond measure. 

You taught young women across the nation that they are just as capable, if not more capable, of standing shoulder to shoulder with men and being totally unapologetic about it. 

Till death, you knew who your enemy was. Racial domination, class exploitation, gender oppression. 

Mbokodo, malibongwe igama lamakhosikazi. Proud descendant of Ngutyana and Msuthu, you fought a good fight.

Leading the despised masses from the front, you grinded and crushed the tyranny of racial oppression.

Despite their cruelty, humiliation, and torture, you return with no broken back to our Kings Mpondo and Faku.

Your courage in the face of death, imprisonment and banishment opened our eyes and inspired generations of freedom fighters. You are an embodiment of our struggle, a torch-bearer of our liberation.

Women could say they are worthy descendants of the brave Queen Nzinga who went to war with the Portuguese to put an end to the enslaving of the children of Africa and the plunder of her resources.

Beyond the shores, when you meet your sister Maya Angelou, she will honour and crown you. She will attest that in life and in death, Mama Winnie Madikizela-Mandela is the “dream and hope of the slave.”

She will say in life and in death, you are the black ocean connecting us to the everlasting strength of Africans in the diaspora. 

In life and in death you remain the unbreakable knot tying us to the bravery and heroism of the Jamaican warrior Queen Nanny and Harriet Tubman in America who took it as their honour to go to battle to free the slaves. 

In your warm eyes and giggle, we will always encounter the revolutionary love and peace of  Mutabaruka, of Tupac Shakur, of  Agostinho Neto, of  Samora Machel, of Onkgopotse Tiro, and of Solomon Mahlangu.

In you, we learn to forgive because of your abounding love and respect for Helen Joseph, Braam Fisher,  Lilian Ngoyi, Fatimah Meer, and Sophie de Bruin-Williams.

Yours was a revolution of love seeking to usher a more humane world for all the children of our land, black and white.

To usher a new dawn in human relations, you struck terror right at the heart of racial discrimination and injustice. 

At the end, you set the bar high and left a legacy that will live on well into the ages. Brave, tenacious, unrelenting,  bold, gracious, loving and kind.   

Phakama Nomzamo wethu.

In your undiminished love for Madiba, in your uncompromising love for Zenani and Zindzi, we find the grace and peace. 

To stay on course now that you are gone, we must sing in unison with Thandiswa Mazwai. We must rise in humility and wisdom to assert that “the ghetto is our first love”. We must sing from dawn till sunset that you Madikizelauyiqhawe lamaqhawe. Asoze mama wethusilibale ukuthi sizalwa ngobani.


You married the struggle and gave everything to it. But you never asked for anything in return from anyone. Because of that, we are now enjoying fundamental rights to choose who our leaders are, we are enjoying the access to basic services like clean water, electricity and decent shelter over our heads. 

Fellow Mourners,

It takes someone special to sacrifice their lives the way she has for a whole nation, who despite her contribution to the struggle was often met with contempt. But she remained unrelenting even until the last years of her life. 

At the wise old age of 80, she was still fighting for those whose voices had ceased with the passing of time. Away from the gaze of journalists, she was working quietly with her family in Bizana to raise funds to help the family of five-year-old Lumka Mketwa who fell in a pit latrine and lost her life.


Mama Winnie was a soldier of God, a devoted member of umanyano. She wore her church blouse with pride at the Wesley Methodist Church in Meadowlands. Long after the dawn of freedom, she was always ready to lend a hand to help bury relatives of her congregants. 

A fellow church member, uMama Vivi Hlatshwayo said of her recently, “She did not hold back from giving. She sacrificed herself for all of us – the nation and the church. She put others ahead of herself.

Look, it is written in the stars that when the shining Princess of the Madikizelas enters the gates of heaven, she will hear angels belting her favourite hymn - “Nzulu Yemfihlakalo” - to welcome her. Our soldier of peace will sing with the angels:


“Hayi! Obobunzulu

Bolu thando lwaKho;

Nalomsebenzi waKho


So, the angels will rejoice that in life, she remained an epitome of black excellence, pride and dignity. They will rejoice because her community never had to bend their knees to beg her for help.


They did not have to explain to her why long after uhuru they could not afford the cost associated with burying loved ones or putting food on the table. 

A true friend of the workers of our land, she would never dare humiliate the poor or treat them with contempt when they sought her help.

The most vulnerable could always trust her with their pain and suffering. They knew that only in her heart would they compose headlines about her kindness.

And we thank all her neighbours in Soweto who upon hearing that Mama Winnie,  the queen of queens, was no more, decided to suspend their daily activities in Vilakazi Street to mourn her passing. 

Mama Winnie must have been proud to see her neighbours observe the rituals and traditions of our people because, in all her fame and glory, she remained that innocent village girl from Mbongweni who hunted and challenged boys in stick fighting. 

Till the end of time, her heartbeat remained the hope and rhythm of Bizana, Soweto, Brandfort, Lamontville, New Brighton, kwaLanga, eMbali, Gugulethu, Orange Farm, Diepsloot and Kanyamazane. 

Fellow Mourners, 

Mama Winnie’s home has a clear view of  Orlando Stadium where we are gathered to honour and celebrate her.  

This is a home which, like her heart and her arms, which was a refuge and a place of safety and comfort for those who sought protection against the apartheid state, and a place of counsel for those who wished to contribute to our struggle.  

Her home is a monument to an extraordinary life of sacrifice and resilience. It is a home which is a symbol of global victory against apartheid, which the UN declared a crime against humanity. 

In Brandfort, where Mama Winnie was banished by the apartheid state, the home imposed on her, also emerged as a site where the human spirit triumphed.

Around our country, numerous informal settlements bear the name of Mama Winnie, not in vain idolisation but because of the struggle she joined or led in all corners of South Africa.With the adoption of her name, they expressed their hope that those informal settlements will one day be transformed to better living conditions.  

Her concern for the wellbeing of others made her a formidable champion of human rights. Her unselfish activism epitomises true values of servant leadership which all of us must emulate as we go about performing our leadership responsibilities. 

As a recipient of the Order of Luthuli for her excellent contribution to our liberation struggle, Mama Winnie joins the gallery of brave South Africans whose fight for freedom caused them to perform feats that achieved gigantic outcomes. 

While Mama Winnie became a face and icon of the struggles faced by black women all the world, her activism cuts across the distinctions of gender, race and class. She was committed to the attainment of all human rights for all people. Her only preoccupation was to serve humanity in its totality. 

In the past few days, Mama Winnie’s sense of universalism was echoed by millions across the world, and the visits to her home by various leaders and people from different political persuasions is a testimony to her status as a global freedom fighter.   

She triumphed to lead a life of reconciliation, and the reconstruction and renewal of our society. 

Our Constitutional vision of a non-racial, non-sexist, united and prosperous South Africa drew inspiration from the values and vision she stood for.  

She was one of those indestructible rocks that apartheid struck when it sought to denigrate, abuse and oppress women in our society. 

As a young and recently qualified social worker, Winnie Mandela was a shining example of the confluence of professional and political commitment. 

Sixty years after Mama Winnie Mandela qualified as a social worker at the Jan HofmeyrSchool of Social Work, the need for more social workers of her calibre who will place the betterment of our society ahead of their personal wellbeing remains a necessity. 

As a militant revolutionary, her objective was always to transform the society she served rather than responding only to individual instances of disadvantage and underdevelopment. 

Family and friends, there are important lessons that  Mama Winnie leaves behind for her political home, the African National Congress and all progressive forces of the Mass Democratic Movement.

She valued collective leadership. She stood for truth as it related to the betterment of the lives for which this mighty organisation was formed for. She is a part of leaders that frowned upon personality cults and the idolisation of individuals. 

She was always more about the “WE” than about the “I”. Even when she was no longer in government, she understood the challenges facing the ANC and government. She always sought to find solutions to unite all our people and their organisation.  

She could easily do so because Mama Winnie was not known to speak behind her comrades. If she did not agree with you she never hesitated to correct you. Many leaders in the ANC have stories of how Mama Winniewarmly embraced them and kissed them in public while she admonished them in private. 

She spoke less about “my children” and more about “our children.” And the enemy perfectly understood what she meant when she said, “my people.”  

She was a unifier and a visionary of note. The lasting moment we will ever build for Mama Winnie, is for all South Africans to unite behind the vision of a united, non-racial, non-sexist, just and prosperous society. 

By relentlessly tackling poverty, reducing inequality, and selflessly serving the poor, we will be the best living the values she stood for.  

Fellow South Africans and all our friends around the globe, Once more, we extend heartfelt condolences to the Madikizela and Mandela families on your irreplaceable loss.  May you be consoled in the knowledge that across the length and breadth of our country and the world, young people are opening their eyes and proclaiming that Mama Winnie Madikizela-Mandela did not die, but she multiplied. 

As I conclude, allow me to read excerpts from Alice Walker’s poem she dedicated to the mother of the nation in the eighties:


We love your vigilance.

We love your impatience

     With killers

And charlatans.

We love your hatred

     Of the deaths of our people.

We love your hatred

     Of Despair.


Winnie Mandela, Sister,

     We love you.

Yours is the contemporary face

     Of the mother

Of the human race.” 

 Thank you very much.

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