Winnie Madikizela-Mandela held in high esteem in Tembisa

Willie Kanyane of Winnie Mandela Park in Tembisa says the late struggle icon helped to secure the land on which they live.
Willie Kanyane of Winnie Mandela Park in Tembisa says the late struggle icon helped to secure the land on which they live.
Image: Mduduzi Ndzingi

Willie Kanyane of Tembisa first met the late Winnie Madikizela-Mandela before elections in 1994 when she visited a piece of land that locals had illegally occupied.

Kanyane, 64, said when the police attempted to force them off the land, they turned to Madikizela-Mandela for help as they had nowhere to go.

"We decided to fight when they wanted to evict us. We knew at the time that she could help us.

"One of our leaders, Paul Manana, made arrangements for her to come and see our place," he said.

Manana said Madikizela-Mandela, dressed in ANC regalia, arrived with her entourage.

"We waited for her at Rabasotho [police station and civic precinct] and we escorted her to this place we had occupied.

"She addressed the community at nearby Thembinkosi School [for pupils with special needs]. The place was packed, everyone wanted to see her.

"She told us that she would take care of us and assured us that this will be our home," Manana recalled.

Reassured by Madikizela-Mandela's words, the people declared their victory and named the area Winnie Mandela Park, in her honour.

Kanyane, a former committee chairman in the settlement, said Madikizela-Mandela's promises were fulfilled and the area was formalised soon after the elections.

"We then received toilets and water. I remained in the same spot I had occupied; we never moved. She helped us a lot; if it wasn't for her we would have been evicted.

"How can we forget her? My three children have a place that they call home because of Winnie Mandela.

"We'll continue to love her."

Raisibe Tshivhase, 73, said she first got water after Madikizela-Mandela came to their rescue. But, before then, their situation resembled a war zone.

"I remembered helicopters dropping off orange papers written in black instructing us to go back where we came from or there would be trouble," Tshivhase said.

"We agreed as a community that we would fight. Then Winnie came to help us."

After Winnie Mandela Park at the north end of Tembisa on the East Rand was formalised, it became the older township's biggest section.

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