Winnie saves day at indaba

Canaan Mdletshe

Winnie Madikizela-Mandela once again became the toast of the downtrodden yesterday when she forced a distinguished women's conference in Durban to open its doors to protesters.

More than 600 women representing poor communities around the country had been protesting outside the International Convention Centre, angry that they were not being allowed to participate in the 4th World Congress of Rural Women being held there.

The women had been protesting since Monday, apparently embarrassing delegates attending the meeting.

It took Madikizela-Mandela's intervention before a delegation of 50 of the 600 women was allowed inside.

The women attending the conference came from non-governmental organisations representing all nine provinces.

The protesters were angry that they had been excluded from the conference, although the issues being debated were about them and their situations.

When Madikizela-Mandela noticed the protesters, she approached them to find out what their problems were.

"I am sorry, I didn't know about your plight and the problems you have encountered.

"It is not right that you people are outside here, while issues affecting you are being discussed inside," she said.

She personally approached Land Affairs Minister, Lulu Xingwana, and spoke to her about the women.

After Madikizela-Mandela's intervention, a special meeting between Lulu Xingwana, Water Affairs Minister Buyelwa Sonjica and traditional leaders was held and it was decided that 50 of the 600 women should attend the conference.