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What Winnie Madikizela-Mandela meant to me

As Winnie Madikizela-Mandela is laid to rest, South Africans share how the anti-apartheid campaigner changed their lives – some in very personal ways.

Nolwazi Duma

“Winnie Mandela meant a lot to me, she was an inspiration to the nation and the whole of Africa. She put a mark on how strong women are in South Africa.

“She empowered us and taught us that you should never give up in anything that you do. No matter what the circumstances are you need to do what you feel is right.”

Buyima Jola

“Everything that I do, I do because I learned it from her, including being stubborn. I know that stubbornness carries women through when men think that they can suppress us.

“I want to say to her: ‘You are mama, I am mama Africa. In your absence I will represent you in every principle and value that you stood for.'”

Paballo Chabedi

“Mama Winnie donated things to our school in Orlando West, not far from where she used to live. Her two last birthdays she spent in our school.

“She cared about young people, she donated pads to little girls in our school also.”

Mercy Sidyiyo

“Mama was like a mother I never had. She made us to be brave, to stand up for our rights.

“I remember in 1986 when I first met her. There was a death in the area and the police wanted to stop the funeral but she came, picked up the coffin and pulled it along alone. Then everybody stood up and had the courage to carry the coffin, and we had the burial.

“It was difficult as there was tear gas and we faced being arrested because the police said nobody except the family would attend the funeral. But she did it.”

Tshepiso Maleswena

“Mama Winnie was the first feminist icon – other than my grandmother – that I encountered. For me she symbolised strength, the smashing of patriarchy, a rule breaker, a badly behaved woman, a woman who coloured outside the lines.

“To young black women her legacy is that you need to live your truth and fight the beast that is patriarchy.”

Mpho Matidze

“My brother was already in exile when I was born in 1979, and Winnie fought so that our family could be reunited. I finally saw him again in 1992.

“She is a woman who stood against all odds. She gave her life to the struggle of this country, against the apartheid government, so that people fighting for liberation could come back and we could all live in a democratic and liberated South Africa.

“We are celebrating the fruits of Mama Winnie’s work today in South Africa.”

Pamela Ndenmde

“Mama Winnie taught us respect – to respect our neighbours and love your neighbours as you love yourself.”

Sihle Sithole

“Many people say Mama Winnie is the one who kept the fire burning when Nelson Mandela and others were still in jail.

“But I say she didn’t just keep it burning, she collected the firewood – in fact, she made the fire even hotter. To us she is the definition of liberation.”

Faith Mazibuko

“Winnie Mandela made sure that we understood the role of women in South Africa – the need for our emancipation, mobilisation, organisation and unity.

“She used to say that as women we are victorious because it is us who hold the knife at its sharpest point.

“We should see to it that there are more and more Winnie Mandelas within our communities.”

Sikhumbuzo Moloi

“Her legacy is that she pushed women into the political scene. They had been left behind for too long.”

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