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January 21, 2019

Winnie Mandela's funeral: All you need to know

Winnie Madikizelañ Mandela attends the funeral ceremony of South African former president Nelson Mandela in Qunu on December 15, 2013. /FILE
Winnie Madikizelañ Mandela attends the funeral ceremony of South African former president Nelson Mandela in Qunu on December 15, 2013. /FILE

Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, the South African anti-apartheid campaigner will receive a state funeral in April 2018, according to the president Cyril Ramaphosa who made an announcement after visiting her home in Johannesburg’s Soweto township.

In the televised tribute, President Cyril Ramaphosa said that she was a ‘champion of justice and equality’ whose ‘dedication to the plight of her people gained her the love and the respect of the nation.

"For many years, she bore the brunt of the senseless brutality of the apartheid state with stoicism and fortitude. Despite the hardship she faced, she never doubted that the struggle for freedom and democracy would triumph and succeed.

"She remained throughout her life a tireless advocate for the dispossessed and the marginalised. She was the voice for the voiceless."

The former wife of South Africa’s first black president Nelson Mandela died after a long battle with illness and being in and out of hospital since the start of the year. But who was Winnie Mandela and when is her funeral?


Born Nomzamo Winifred Zanyiwe Madikizela on September 26, 1936, Winnie was also known as Mama Winnie and ‘mother of the nation’.

She was married to the first black South African president Nelson Mandela for 38 years and during this time, Winnie fought against the white-majority rule and became involved in criminal scandals.

Winnie grew up in what is now the Eastern Cape province and later moved to Johannesburg to work as the city’s first black female social worker.

Here, Winnie became interested in politics after she conducted research into high infant mortality rate in a black township and the link with poverty caused with racism.

She met Nelson in 1957 when he was a lawyer and an anti-apartheid activist, 18 years her senior. They married after Nelson divorced his first wife.

Winnie and Nelson started their family before he was forced to go underground and was later imprisoned for 27 years from 1963.

Winnie was then forced to reside in a remote town called Brandfort with her two daughters from 1977 and neighbours were forbidden to speak to her.

Here, she was continually harassed by the apartheid police, sometimes dragging her from bed at night.

She gathered a group of men who referred to themselves as the Mandela United Football Club who lived on her property, but they became thugs and terrorised Soweto.

Winnie’s bodyguards were also accused of the disappearances and killings of 18 boys and young men. After Nelson was released from prison, she worked towards ensuring that the perpetrators of apartheid were punished.

Winnie and Nelson separated in 1992 after the latter accused the former of infidelity and they divorced in 1996.

In 2003, she was convicted on fraud and theft charges and was sentenced to five years in jail, but did not serve time. Winnie then quit Parliament and resigned from the ANC Woman’s League.

Winnie Mandela’s death

Winnie Mandela passed away at the age of 81 on April 2, 2018 after a long battle with illness, according to her family.

Her memorial will be held at the Orlando Stadium in the Houghton suburb of Johannesburg on Wednesday, April 11, 2018.

The funeral will be held in the same place as her memorial on Saturday, April 14, 2018 and she will be buried at the Fourways Memorial Park Cemetery.

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