It would have been wonderful for Winnie to hear all the praises while still alive: Graça Machel

Graca Machel
Image: Kgaugelo Masweneng

Nelson Mandela's widow‚ Graça Machel‚ paid an emotional tribute to her “big sister”‚ the late Winnie-Mazikizela Mandela‚ on Monday at Constitutional Hill in Johannesburg.

Machel painted a picture of how wonderful it would have been for Mama Madikizela-Mandela to have heard all the praises while she was still alive.

She acknowledged that she had not yet fully processed the pain she was going through following the loss of the liberation struggle icon.

“It is too early‚ really too early for us to be able to process the pain we are going through. As a nation‚ we tend to wake up‚ to realise who are the people who have made us as a nation‚ people who sacrificed so much for us. We tend only to wake up and to recognise them when they leave‚” said Machel.

In a teary tribute‚ she spoke of how South Africa could have done better to honour the mother of the nation while she was still alive.

“Can you imagine‚ how wonderful it would have been for Mama to sit amongst us‚ to listen to all those tributes which have been outpouring... Don’t you think it would have been only fair that she would hear‚ and listen from all segments of our society who united and they forgot all the small differences and came together simply as her children and told her ‘mama‚ we love you’‚ don’t you think it would have been so wonderful?

“Don’t you think it would have been great for her to have all the untruths that were allowed to live with us about her life to be cleared while she is still amongst us‚” Machel said.

Machel said she was highlighting the importance of appreciating people while they were still alive because she was not sure if Mama was “absorbing” all the heartfelt tributes.

She was speaking at the Nelson Mandela Foundation tribute on a day that would have marked the countdown to Nelson Mandela’s 100th birthday.

Ndileka Mandela who could not conceal her tears said she and other family members were still gutted about Madikizela-Mandela’s death as “in life‚ she got a raw deal”.

She said as a family they still needed her.

Speaking at the event‚ Fees Must Fall activist Naledi Chirwa gave a feminist take on to how the legacy of Mama Winnie could be honoured.

“Black women still can’t breathe‚ we can’t breathe in our own homes‚ in the corporate world‚ political spaces‚ taxi ranks‚ we can’t breathe!‚” said Chirwa.

Chirwa referred to the persistent gender wage inequality and said that unless that was addressed‚ the country was not serious about preserving Madikizela-Mandela’s legacy.

“We would ensure that sanitary towels are not a dream for some girls; we would ensure safe abortions are available. We would ensure that queer women don’t have to pay with their lives to exist. We would ensure there is a sex court for sex crimes for women who have been raped. We are tired of rape crimes being treated the same as cell phone thuggery‚” she said.

Madikizela-Mandela died last week Monday at the age of 81 at the Netcare Milpark Hospital in Johannesburg after a long illness that had seen her in and out of hospital since the start of the year.

A monumental photographic exhibition in her memory will be erected at Constitutional Hill. It will be open to the public from 5.30pm on Thursday.

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