There were tears and laughter as young and old danced, sang and celebrated the life of Winnie Madikizela-Mandela in Pretoria yesterday.
Most of the women wore black, a fist in the air and a doek on their heads. That was the spirit of Mama Winnie.
Never in the history of the South African State Theatre have emotions raged like when Rebecca Malope kicked off her shoes to dance and sing in celebration of the mother of the nation.
Holding back tears, the gospel star gave a sterling performance, with many joining in with song and prayer.
But it was when Zahara broke down in tears that the crowd became silent. As she turned back to the crowd, singing through her broken voice, the crowd willed her to continue with her performance.
The concert started on a high note with the audience immediately jumping to their feet in praise and joining in song when various gospel artists took to the stage. With some chanting “Amandla”, the audience raised their hands in praise while yelling “Hallelujah” and “Praise God” as several gospel artists went through their paces, filling the Opera Theatre with electrifying energy.
The Soweto String Quartet gave a memorable performance while Zimbabwean artist Oliver Mtukudzi managed to get the audience off their feet to join him in dance when he plucked at his guitar strings.
“I encourage every woman to strive to be like Winnie Madikizela-Mandela,” he said during his performance.
Many young students had gathered outside the State Theatre where a big screen was on display for those that missed the “first-come, first-served” free tickets.
But it was the string of poets, including Mzwakhe Mbuli, who gave tear-jerking tributes to Mama Winnie. While some sang in celebration, tears rolled down the cheeks of many as images of Madikizela-Mandela were projected on the stage backdrop.
A small group of ANC members gathered outside the venue after the three-hour performance, singing struggle songs in honour of Madikizela-Mandela.
“I have been seeing people on TV being happy and celebrating. When I saw on TV this morning that there is a free Winnie Mandela tribute at the State Theatre, I thought this was the perfect opportunity to honour her,” said resident Thamsanqa Kunene.