The late stalwart and icon Winnie Madikizela-Mandela. Picture: Dumisani Sibeko
Johannesburg - ANC veteran Winnie Madikizela-Mandela had lunch with her family on Sunday afternoon, hours before she was rushed to hospital after complaining that she was struggling to breathe.

The Struggle stalwart’s final moments leading to her sudden death were revealed on Tuesday by one of her bodyguards, who spoke to The Star on condition of anonymity.

He said Madikizela-Mandela was “jolly as usual” on the day at her home in Orlando West, Soweto, with her grandchildren and staff.

The aide said the sudden turn for the worst came after the 81-year-old told them she was not feeling well at about 7pm. Frantic family members rushed her to Netcare Milpark Hospital in Parktown.


“She was well on Sunday. There were days when she would wake up and would not be herself. She was sick for a long time.”

He said that on Friday, the “Mother of the Nation” - as Madikizela-Mandela was affectionately known - had attended a service at the Methodist Church in Meadowlands Zone 7 in Soweto.

Details of how she spent the day were shared on Instagram by her granddaughter Zoleka Mandela. The pair spent Good Friday at the church. She affectionately referred to her grandmother as “My Day One”.

Wearing her church regalia - a black skirt, red and white jacket and white hat - Madikizela-Mandela spent over five hours in church, Zoleka said in her post.

On March 8, Madikizela-Mandela attended Zoleka’s graduation.

“My Day One (grandmother) and I are getting dressed and (having) our make-up done together later today She (Madikizela-Mandela) wanted us to wear matching outfits, I settled for the same fabric,” she wrote.

On March 26, Zoleka posted a picture of Madikizela-Mandela and her late ex-husband Nelson Mandela kissing.

She said she told her grandmother that it was time she found her a “boo” and asked, “What is actually your type?”

To which Madikizela-Mandela responded: “Darling, just look at your grandfather. That’s my type,” Zoleka wrote.


The bodyguard said Madikizela- Mandela could hardly walk after she had a knee operation in October. “She could no longer come to the kitchen downstairs to check if everything was being done properly. She was cared for by nurses and had a personal chef.

“The only time she came downstairs was when we took her to the hospital for a check-up or when she was going out with family, either for lunch or dinner,” he said.

He said when Madikizela-Mandela arrived at the hospital on Sunday night, she was “not too vocal”.

“I saw her body on the hospital bed on Monday afternoon. I was shattered. It was hard to see her lying there. We got on very well. She was like a mother to me.

“She was humble, loving and caring. She was a peaceful person and guided me a lot,” the man said.

The late Struggle icon died as she was preparing to take the fight over Mandela’s Qunu home to the Constitutional Court.

This was revealed yesterday by her lawyer Mvuzo Notyesi, who confirmed to The Star that he had already filed court papers to the country’s highest court in February, following their bruising loss in the Supreme Court of Appeal in January.

Madikizela-Mandela, who in legal papers claimed to have remained Mandela’s customary wife despite their civil divorce in 1996, was appealing the Mthatha High Court ruling that she was not entitled to the property.

“I had filed papers for leave to appeal at the Constitutional Court as an instruction from her a few days after the Supreme Court’s decision.

“Her passing will now have little impact, in the sense that it will now be up to her family and executors whether they want to further proceed with the case. It will depend on what the family resolve in that regard. I’m yet to speak with them, as they are also in shock about her death,” said Notyesi.

He last spoke to Madikizela-Mandela on Good Friday, but did not mention the case, he said.


Notyesi has personally known the ANC stalwart for over five years and they had been communicating daily. Notyesi maintained that Madikizela-Mandela had not pursued the case of the Qunu property for personal gain, but to change the law and fight patriarchy that women in rural areas were being subjected to.

In her papers filed at the appeal court a few months ago, Madikizela-Mandela claimed that the land in dispute was allocated to her in the presence of traditional leaders in 1989 and she only became aware, after reading Mandela’s will in 2014, that the land had been registered under his name in 1998 when he was still the president.

She also argued that, according to customary law, she was still Mandela’s wife and had been a frequent visitor to Qunu after his death in 2013, where she also performed traditional rituals.

Notyesi welcomed the family’s decision to bury Madikizela-Mandela in Gauteng, adding that she never mentioned to him where she would like to be buried.

The AbaThembu have, however, not given up on their daughter being buried in Qunu.

AbaThembu king Azenathi Dalindyebo will lead a delegation on Saturday to Madikizela-Mandela’s home in Soweto, where he is expected to express his kingdom’s wish that the Struggle icon be buried in Qunu.

The AbaThembu king’s spokesperson Nkosi Zwelenqaba Mgudlwa said it was the wish of AbaThembu that she be buried in Qunu, but added that the king and his subjects would not dictate to the family.

The Presidency said in a statement that President Cyril Ramaphosa had declared that Madikizela-Mandela would be honoured with a special official funeral, designated for people of extraordinary credentials by the president.

The Presidency said that in line with this declaration, the national flag will, with immediate effect, fly at half-mast at all flag stations countrywide and at South African diplomatic missions abroad, until April 14.

The official memorial service will be held next Wednesday at the Regina Mundi Catholic Church, Mkhize Street, Soweto. The official funeral will be held at Orlando Stadium, Soweto, on April 14.

The Star