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Crowds of South Africans lay to rest 'Mama' Winnie Mandela

By AFP - Apr 14,2018 - Last updated at Apr 14,2018

Members of the South African military carry the coffin of anti-apartheid icon Winnie Madikizela Mandela during her funeral at the Orlando Stadium, in the township of Soweto, concluding 10 days of national mourning in Johannesburg, on Saturday (AFP photo)

SOWETO, South Africa — South Africans turned out in thousands to bid final goodbyes to anti-apartheid icon and Nelson Mandela's former wife Winnie Mandela who was being laid to rest with full state honours on Saturday.

Mourners filled the 37,500-seater Orlando Stadium in the township of Soweto where Winnie lived and erupted into loud cheers as the casket carrying her remains was wheeled in.

The casket draped with the multi-coloured South African flag was placed in the middle of the 37,500-seater stadium in front of a stage, decked in white and yellow flowers.

Mourners dressed in the colours of the ruling African National Congress (ANC), as well those of the radical opposition Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), sang "there's no-one like Winnie", an adapted popular liberation struggle song. 

In a moving, yet fiery eulogy, her daughter slammed her mother's critics. 

"It was my mother who kept his [Nelson Mandela's] memory alive," said a teary Zenani. "South Africa, and indeed the world, holds men and women to different standards of morality." 

South Africa's President Cyril Ramaphosa, who took office two months ago, offered an apology for the country's failure to honour Winnie for her contribution to the liberation of the country.

"I'm sorry Mama that your organisation [ANC] delayed in according you its honour. I'm sorry that we delayed this much, to this point," he said in an eulogy.

Firebrand opposition politician Julius Malema, who was expelled from the ANC, but who remained close to Winnie, said "she died a revolutionary... she never sold out". As soon as speeches drew to a close, stormy clouds formed over the stadium, followed moments after by heavy rains that drenched mourners and the funeral procession as it drove out to a cemetery 40 kilometres away.

Mourners broke into another liberation song chanting in Xhosa: "this is the Winnie we know".

The ceremony concluded 10 days of national mourning during which time hundreds of thousands of South Africans have paid tribute to the "Mother of the Nation" at her Soweto home and elsewhere.

Winnie Mandela, who died in Johannesburg aged 81 on April 2 after a long illness, has been celebrated for helping keep Nelson Mandela's dream of a non-racial South Africa alive while he was behind bars for 27 years.
"She was one of the most profound leaders of the ANC," said 53-year-old mourner Brian Magqaza. "She fought from beginning to the end. Go well Mama."

Foreign dignitaries at the funeral include the leaders of Namibia, Swaziland and the Republic of Congo, as well as American civil rights activist Jesse Jackson and international supermodel Naomi Campbell. 

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A WORD OF GRATITUDE AND BLESSING TO YOU SOUL MAMA OF THE WORLD WINNI. THANK YOU

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