Political party leaders have called for South African flags to be flown at half-mast in honour of ANC stalwart and freedom fighter Winnie Madikizela-Mandela.
Bantu Holomisa, Madikizela-Mandela’s friend and protege of her late husband, Nelson Mandela, paid tribute to struggle veteran Winnie who, he said, was a feisty and vocal freedom fighter, who did not hesitate to speak her mind.
“She also sacrificed almost three decades of her life during which she and uTata should have been free to go about their daily lives as a normal family, with human rights and civil liberties,” said the United Democratic Movement president.
“But that was not this couple’s fate; they had a higher calling.
“She sometimes made for a controversial figure and – whether one agreed with her views or not – one must admire the fact that she never lacked the courage of her convictions. She called a spade a shovel –and then some. She was strong, passionate, articulate and charismatic. She did not shirk confrontation, but also had a sense of humour and a light-hearted side.”
As then Transkei military ruler, Holomisa worked closely with Madikizela-Mandela, who frequently visited the homeland to pass messages to him from the exiled ANC leadership.
Her close associate and EFF leader Julius Malema reacted with a tweet consisting of only emojis representing sadness, crying, and a broken heart.
DA leader Mmusi Maimane said it was a “sad day” for SA.
“She is a hero who dedicated all her life to the fight against oppression and she stood for the values of freedom and democracy that we all enjoy today. Our condolences to her family.”
Maimane said it was fitting for all South Africans to mourn and for the country to fly flags at half-mast in her honour.
Congress of the People president Mosiuoa Lekota described her as an “outstanding symbol” for racial and gender equality in South Africa and a leader who “shall not be forgotten”.
He said: “The example of her life will continue to inspire many generations of South African, African and international humankind to live lives of courage and audacity wherever humankind left behind and oppressed. May her soul rest in peace.”
The ANC Women’s League, of which Madikizela-Mandela was president for two terms, said it was shocked.
ANCWL secretary-general Meokgo Matuba described her as “the epitome of the struggle against inequality, unemployment and poverty and one of the most prolific women leaders. She will forever remain one of the astounding activists and embodiment of ANCWL values.”
National Assembly Speaker Baleka Mbete and National Council of Provinces chairperson Thandi Modise also expressed their shock.
“She defied the repressive laws and associated patriarchy, embodied a brave character of an unflinching woman in the wake of all odds against her throughout her life. She was a solid rock, a defender of the vulnerable and defenceless,” a joint statement from parliament said.