ANC secretary-general Ace Magashule unveils a Winnie Madikizela-Mandela banner at Luthuli House. Members of the ANC and members of the public are being urged to sign messages of condolences and support. Picture: Nokuthula Mbatha/African News Agency (ANA)
NELSON Mandela’s widow Graça Machel yesterday paid tribute to her unique “older sister” Winnie Madikizela-Mandela during a memorial hosted by the Nelson Mandela Foundation at Constitution Hill.

In marking the countdown to what would have been Nelson Mandela’s 100th birthday on July 18, the Nelson Mandela Foundation held the memorial to honour the late Madikizela-Mandela.

As one of the few close family members mourning the death of the Struggle icon, Machel said she was taking her time to process her pain and preferred to be quiet, to feel it and go through it.

Unable to hold back her tears, Machel shared her concerns for Madikizela-Mandela’s daughters, Zindziswa and Zenani.

Machel said: “Zenani and Zindzi, were under Mama’s wings

"She was there. These children have had very little of an upbringing from their father.

"They were toddlers when Madiba went to prison and when he came back they were young women, married with children. So for them, Mama bore a big tree.”

Machel said her pain has become heavier since the death of Madikizela-Mandela.

She added that the Madikizela-Mandela family was no ordinary family after sacrificing and dedicating their lives to liberate and fight for the people of the country.“We have been blessed to have Madiba as the head and Mama as the matriarch of the family.

"I want you to understand why we are so shaken, why we are still confused. Because we don’t have the courage of our parents, we fear the future,” said Machel.

She reflected on the late Struggle stalwart’s fight for education and the people using the example of her support for the nationwide #FeesMustFall marches.

“If Mama was giving soup to people in Soweto who is going to attend to them now and do it?

“If Mama was comforting young people, whenever they needed her, her door was opened to them.

"Who is going to stand and do that?” she said.

Ndileka Mandela, eldest grandchild of Nelson Mandela and representing the family, said the family would need continued support.

She said: “Its still very sore. Mummy took us by surprise.

“As a family we would like to say we still need you, quite a lot. We need your support. To the general public we say thank you so much.”

Ndileka rushed home to make preparations for the funeral but said Mama Winnie's life was a struggle and that the Mother of the Nation had got a raw deal in life and they wanted her to bury her with dignity.