As the world paid homage to Winnie Madikizela-Mandela yesterday, leaders of various political parties in the country tried to outsmart each other in paying tribute to the liberation icon, in what seemed a jockeying for her legacy.
This was as they tried to gain relevance, and political mileage out of the official funeral of Madikizela-Mandela, who died on April 2.
EFF leader Julius Malema appeared to live up to his self-styled image as the kingmaker, calling on the governing ANC to name Cape Town International Airport after Madikizela-Mandela.
Malema tore into the ANC and leaders of other political formations as he sought to remind them that they had turned their backs on the “Mother of the Nation”. He said if the ANC was serious about honouring Madikizela-Mandela and her legacy, its leaders should name Cape Town’s airport after her.
The firebrand EFF leader, who had a close relationship with Madikizela-Mandela, referred to her fondly as “mama” during his address. Their bond goes back to his days as the leader of the ANC Youth League.
Pulling no punches, Malema said individuals who had stood against her in the early 1990s were now mourning her death.
“Equally big Mama, some of those who sold you to the regime are here and are crying louder than all of us who stood by you.
“The UDF cabal that distanced itself from you is here, crying crocodile tears after disowning you at a critical moment, hoping the regime will finish you off,” Malema told the thousands of mourners at Orlando Stadium in Soweto.
He was referring to the time when she was accused of being involved in young activist Stompie Seipei’s death. The icon was later cleared of this charge.
“All those who resigned from the NEC of the Women’s League because they said they can’t be led by a criminal, they are here playing all-important roles at your funeral. Can we trust them or should we treat them with suspicion maWinnie?” he asked to loud applause.
The funeral was attended by international dignitaries, including supermodel Naomi Campbell and several heads of states.
Malema reminded the mourners that Madikizela-Mandela fought against apartheid fearlessly. “You fought for what you believed was right, possessed only by your love for our people and the restoration of their dignity. In this fight you were persecuted by the apartheid regime and disowned by your own,” he said.
Seemingly not to be outdone, President Cyril Ramaphosa announced that Madikizela-Mandela would be posthumously bestowed with the ANC’s highest honour, the Isithwalandwe-Seaparankoe.
“I will make a proposal to the ANC national executive committee to bestow on you its highest honour,” Ramaphosa said to thunderous applause from the packed stadium, not far from Madikizela-Mandela’s home in Orlando West.
Ramaphosa conceded, while delivering his eulogy, that the country and his party had failed to honour and support Madikizela-Mandela while she was facing a vicious “smear campaign” by the apartheid regime’s agents and spies.
His admission came after apartheid agents openly admitted that they were responsible for the negative media reports and accusations that Madikizela-Mandela was involved in the murder of Seipei.
“She suffered alone,” Ramaphosa told thousands of mourners who arrived at the Orlando Stadium to pay their last respects to the Struggle icon.
The president also told the mourners about the governing party’s Top Six first encounter with Madikizela-Mandela’s daughter, Zenani Mandela-Dlamini, following the confirmation of their mother’s death at the Milpark Hospital in Joburg.
“The day after she died, the ANC’s Top Six leaders went to her home to pay our condolences to her family.
“Zenani’s tears revealed Mam Winnie’s wounds,” Ramaphosa said.
According to him, Madikizela-Mandela was left to tend to her “wounds” on her own for the rest of her life.
“Left alone to fend for herself only caused her more pain.
“But she touched our wounds all the time.
“When we lost our loved ones, when people were in pain, overcome with anger, prone to violence, she came to touch our wounds.
“She bore witness to our suffering. She bandaged our wounds.
“We did not do the same for her,” Ramaphosa said, adding that Madikizela-Mandela “richly deserved” to be honoured by the party she had served for more than six decades.
He described Madikizela-Mandela as a great African woman and the “big mama of the nation”, who provided leadership during the country’s most difficult period.
“She was perpetually in the trenches. As men ran away, she was there,” he said.
According to Ramaphosa, Madikizela-Mandela laid bare the edifice of patriarchy and loudly spoke truth to power.
Madikizela-Mandela’s life, he added, was about service to her people and the alleviation of suffering.
Earlier, ANC national chairperson Gwede Mantashe committed the ANC to completing the delayed refurbishing of Madikizela-Mandela’s home in Brandfort in the Free State, to which the apartheid government banished her for nearly a decade, between 1977 and 1986.
The ANC and in particular its secretary-general, Ace Magashule, have come under severe criticism following Madikizela-Mandela’s death for failing to deliver their promise to convert the house into a museum, despite millions of rand having been budgeted since the project was announced years ago.
On Wednesday, the Department of Arts and Culture announced that a new contractor for the project had been appointed.
Spokesperson Asanda Magaqa said that Risimati Consulting Engineers had entered into an agreement with the department on March 13 and that the last consultation meeting between the department and Risimati had taken place on April 7.
The Sunday Independent