The late Winnie Madikizela-Mandela’s personal assistant of 11 years, Zodwa Zwane, told supporters, friends, family members and the public gathered at Orlando Stadium that she never got her wish to attend the Easter service at Moria this year.
Moria is the headquarters of the Zion Christian Church (ZCC), situated about 25 kilometres east of Polokwane, with an estimated four million members attending the popular Easter service traditionally addressed by Bishop Engenas Lekganyane on Easter Sunday.
“Three weeks before Eater Monday … we were watching TV with her, and she said, Zodwa, I would like you to organise for me to go to Moria. Please speak to my son, Patrice Motsepe, to organise for me to go to Moria,” Zwane said.
Zwane said she had one of the most unorthodox interviews on November 1, 2007.
“This morning I remembered my first encounter with Mama as I called her. She was a mother, a friend and a boss. I remembered when I was called in for an interview on 1st Nov 2007. When I walked in, she looked at me and said, I love your outfit, and asked, how did you match these colours?
“She said your age makes me comfortable. She made me turn around, and I showed off the clothes. She asked who my designer was and, as if I had one, I said I had someone who made my clothes, and it was perfect. She said it’s fine, they will call you, and I have other people to interview.
“I said we only talked about clothes, she said, it’s fine, there is someone else I have to interview. God, what else do I need? I spoke to Mrs Mandela today?
“When she called me again the next day, I thought it was another interview, but she showed me the office. It took me six months to tell people that I was Ms Madikizela-Mandela’s PA. When I told someone at church, she said, you wish!” Zwane told those gathered at the official memorial service.
Zwane said she was speaking on behalf of those who have served “Mrs Mandela”, personal assistants, the kitchen staff, the gardeners and the nurses “who became part of her”, and said that during one of their camaraderie discussions about death and funerals, Winnie had told Zodwa she would make her famous during her funeral.
“She said, Zodwa, I will make you famous when I am dead because you will speak at my own funeral, you will tell a story no one knows. Don’t even be a politician. I said, unfortunately, you won’t hear me because you will be late. I said at my funeral, KISS. She said what do you mean? I said, keep it short, sweetie. We lost mama at the time we least expected,” she said.
Zwane said on Good Friday, when Winnie attended the Methodist Wesleyan Church in Meadowlands, Soweto, she received a call from one of the nurses, only to find out Mama had summoned her back to the house the next day.
When she got to the house, she discussed the nativity play and 14 stations, telling Zwane: “I know how it is to fall and wake up and look at the people yearning for their freedom.”
“She said let me share with you yesterday’s sermon. She spoke about forgiveness, one of those when she spoke about she will have tears. They will not roll down her face, and she would say, I don’t have tears anymore because I have reached the pain threshold.
“She said, unfortunately, our churches in the location don’t cater for people like us. They take too long. I was in the church for five hours, it was too long, and I left before the 7th station.
“Father, in thy hands, I commit my spirit – it’s what she asked me to preach about. I asked her if we can do this on Tuesday. But I didn’t know Tuesday was not going to come. She wanted to hear the seven words, but I said it is 13H20 and the bank closes at 14H00. In the sermon I never wanted to share with her, I borrowed from Matthews Henry, who said Jesus died with spiritual words in his mouth,” Zwane said.