Ramutumbu will miss Mama Winnie being her neighbour

Rachel Ramutumbu, 92, Winnie Madikizela-Mandela's neighbour in Soweto.
Rachel Ramutumbu, 92, Winnie Madikizela-Mandela's neighbour in Soweto.
Image: Veli Nhlapo

One of Winnie Madikizela-Mandela's elderly neighbours has poured her heart out about the experience of living in the same vicinity as her.

Rachel Ramutumbu, 92, sat on a rock outside her Orlando West, Soweto, house holding a walking stick as people milled around on Monday. As she stays directly opposite Madikizela-Mandela's house, she said she witnessed every move that the icon made, including her routine of tending to her garden every morning.

Ramutumbu reminisces about the revered leader, whom she affectionately calls Masechaba (mother of the nation in Sotho): "She didn't hold herself in high esteem as the wife of Nelson Mandela.

"I was emotional and filled with pride when Winnie moved in with [Nelson] Mandela to their new big house in 1991 to be my neighbour."

"I witnessed everything from the time the house was being built. I am a resident of this area since 1955. People who look after us and make us happy as batsofe [the elderly] don't last long in this world. She was a good person."

The mother of six children, 12 grandkids and four great-grandkids is concerned about their security and safety in the neighbourhood now that Madikizela-Mandela is no more.

She said after Madikizela-Mandela moved in, there was a lull in crime in the area because of the bodyguards and CCTV cameras around her home.

"Come Christmas time, the New Year and her birthdays, we were her kids, she showered us with gifts. She would slaughter a sheep for us to celebrate with her."

Ramutumbu said that when her last-born child, a girl, got married in 1992, Madiba made time from his busy schedule to attend the wedding with his bodyguards.

"They mingled and greeted everyone. He did his usual trademark greeting 'How're you'. He enjoyed the feast with us, it was heart-warming" .