Simnikiwe Hlatshaneni
Premium Journalist
3 minute read
10 Apr 2018
6:00 am

Don’t break your promises, like after Madiba’s death, Graca pleads

Simnikiwe Hlatshaneni

All the fine promises made after Nelson Mandela died were broken and the same must not be done in the name of Winnie Madikizela-Mandela's memory.

Graca Machel embraces an inconsolable Ndileka Mandela during the WInnie Madikizela Mandela memorial held in Johannesburg, 09 April 2018. Ndileka is the eldest granddaughter of Nelson Mandela. Picture: Refilwe Modise

This is according to Mandela’s widow, Graca Machel, whose impassioned plea came yesterday at Mam’ Winnie’s memorial service in Johannesburg.

“I’m sorry that I have to say this… Five years later after those pledges South Africa is worse than [when] Madiba left, but we all pledged, ‘Tata we are going to do this, Tata we are going to honour you…’ We did exactly the same thing we are doing now,” she said.

Machel was speaking at the Nelson Mandela Foundation’s (NMF) special memorial service for Madikizela-Mandela at Constitution Hill, where emotions ran high. Hundreds of mourners, including ministers and ANC stalwarts, attended the gathering.

After embracing an inconsolable Ndileka Mandela, Madiba’s eldest granddaughter, Machel gave a message of tough love to her audience, challenging South Africans to go beyond memorials, promises and funerals.

Graca Machel embraces Ndileka Mandela during the Winnie Madikizela Mandela memorial held in Johannesburg, 09 April 2018. Picture: Refilwe Modise

“As a nation, we tend to wake up to realise who are the people who have made us as a nation, who sacrificed so much for us.

“We tend to only to wake up … when they leave. Can you imagine how wonderful it would have been for Mama to sit among us to listen to all those tributes which have been pouring out since her transition has been announced?”

Machel challenged people to come forward in exactly a year’s time to say exactly what it was that they had done differently to carry on Madikizela-Mandela’s legacy.

“Now I want to ask each one of you, come Monday after the funeral, what are you personally going to do more, to do better, to do differently but intentionally as more than a pledge but action to honour Mama?”

An emotional, but straight-talking Machel continued: “I hope this new dawn we talk about … is not going to end with the two weeks of mourning…”

Some of the mourners in the crowd at the memorial service held at Constitution Hill in Johannesburg for Winnie Madikizela-Mandela. Picture: Refilwe Modise

Other speakers at the intimate event included Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo, former prisoner Cecile Palmer, Public Service and Administration Minister Ayanda Dlodlo and several other ministers and former ministers.

Speaking to The Citizen later, NMF CEO Sello Hatang and Dlodlo highlighted the need to protect Madikizela-Mandela’s legacy from “apartheid propaganda”, which sees the struggle heroine portrayed, especially in the international media, as someone with a chequered history.

Dlodlo said some of these narratives had already been disproved.

“We all need to carry on the work that had been done. Because what we have seen over the past few days is that every myth and every lie about Winnie has been debunked; all of the stories that have been attributed to her have been very hurtful but also extremely cruel and they have been demystified.

“All those who were responsible for some of the things that we have blamed her for have come to the fore to say she wasn’t involved. And I think that’s what we need to carry forward and also remember not to cast stones before we gather facts.”

Schoolgirls sing at the Winnie Madikizela-Mandela memorial service held at Constitution Hill in Johannesburg on April 9, 2018. Picture: Refilwe Modise

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