Africa

Soweto pays final respects to Winnie Mandela

Hundreds of people lined the streets of Soweto on Friday to see the funeral procession of Winnie Mandela ahead of her final send-off this weekend.

Relatives carry Winnie Mandela's coffin at her house in Soweto
Relatives carry Winnie Mandela's coffin at her house in Soweto (AFP)

Hundreds of people lined the streets of Soweto on Friday to see the funeral procession of Winnie Mandela ahead of her final send-off this weekend.

A black hearse carrying the body of Mandela, one of the most divisive figures in the anti-apartheid struggle, slowly drove to her house led by uniformed men bearing the flag of her African National Congress (ANC) party.

Mandela, who died in Johannesburg aged 81 on April 2 after a long illness, was celebrated for keeping her husband Nelson Mandela's dream of a non-racial South Africa alive during his 27-year imprisonment.

Mourners line the streets of Soweto as a hearse carrying the body of Winnie Mandela makes its way through the township
Mourners line the streets of Soweto as a hearse carrying the body of Winnie Mandela makes its way through the township (AFP)

"There were times when people could not afford a funeral and she would assist," said neighbour Gloria Searole, 31, a service consultant who went to catch a glimpse of the procession along with her daughter.

"She was very generous. It is a pity that all these things were not known. She was an exceptional woman, she was fearless."

South Africa's new President Cyril Ramaphosa, who took office two months ago, will lead the mourners at a pre-burial service due to start at 0600 GMT on Saturday at Soweto's 37,000-capacity Orlando stadium.

South Africa's new President Cyril Ramaphosa will lead the mourners at a pre-burial service on Saturday
South Africa's new President Cyril Ramaphosa will lead the mourners at a pre-burial service on Saturday (AFP)

American civil rights activist Jesse Jackson is expected to attend, as are the presidents of Namibia and the Republic of Congo.

"She is truly the mother of South Africa," Jackson told journalists on Friday.

The township of Soweto is hugely symbolic in South Africa as it became a crucible of black resistance to white minority rule which ended with elections in 1994.

Women wrap themselves in ANC flags to pay their respects to the former wife of Nelson Mandela
Women wrap themselves in ANC flags to pay their respects to the former wife of Nelson Mandela (AFP)

Mandela's husband became the first black president of democratic South Africa, but she refused to follow many other struggle-era politicians who moved from townships like Soweto to formerly white-only suburbs after the end of apartheid.