Fighting back tears, the last living leader of the Women’s March of 1955, Sophie de Bruyn, described the immense sadness she felt upon hearing the news of the loss of a friend.
De Bruyn herself spent her 80th birthday with Madikizela-Mandela in January while she was in Milpark Hospital in Johannesburg. There they shared memories of their struggle activities.
“It is very painful. I am in a very painful place right now,” De Bruyn told The Citizen.
Struggle veteran Denis Goldberg pointed to the great loss the nation has experienced.
“She was a genuine hero. Her life was turned upside down by that long solitary confinement. The brutality of her treatment made her life very difficult thereafter, in the sense that the security establishment ran a campaign of vilification against her,” an emotional Goldberg said.
Goldberg remembered when she and Nelson Mandela arrived in Sweden to see OR Tambo after Madiba had been released.
“They came down the reception line … she looked at me … and she beamed at me!
“She said ‘how wonderful to see you again!’ And we didn’t know each other that well … but it was just the sincere magnetism of that personality that was a delight to see.”
Goldberg added that Madikizela-Mandela was a tremendous example of “courage, and how things can go wrong for a bit – and how by stepping back and reflecting, one can make a comeback”.
She also epitomised the strength that a mother has to display when faced with ghastly situations.
“One admires her for that time when she had left Brandfort (where she had been banished to).
“No matter what happened … people were shot … people were imprisoned … but she was there to comfort them.
“That is quite remarkable courage I have to say, which is why she was so widely admired – even by those of us who sometimes felt she was a little bit more dramatic than she might have been.”
What mourners say about Madikizela-Mandela:
- “She is one of those who would tell us exactly what is wrong and what is right at any time. We are going to be missing that, because it is not being an icon because of the length of time in the struggle. You become an icon when you provide that guidance. We’ll be missing that guidance.” – Gwede Mantashe
- “The Methodist Church of South Africa counts it as a gift to have had Mama Winnie as a part of our community.” – Methodist Bishop Gary Rivas, describing how Madikizela-Mandela spent Friday at a church in Soweto, and attended a Sunday morning service in the township as well.
- “The interfaith community of South Africa will minister to the family, as Mama Winnie was larger than just one denomination. She was an icon to all of us.” – ANC Chaplain Vukile Mehana
- “We’ll do our best to ensure that everyone is well informed. We know that our grandmother played an important role to all of us in this room and to the global society. It is a tragic loss to us all, so I send condolences to everyone.” – Zondwa Mandela