Mama Winnie's PA recalls the life and times of the struggle heroine

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

“I’ll make you famous when I’m dead,” said the late Winnie Madikizela-Mandela to her Personal Assistant (PA). 

The Mother of the Nation, as she was affectionately known, said this to her personal assistant Zodwa Zwane in one of their countless conversations. 

Speaking at Madikizela-Mandela’s memorial on a cloudy Wednesday in Soweto, Zwane recalled the conversation they had in which she said Madikizela-Mandela would be late for her own funeral. 

An emotional Zwane recalled how Madikizela-Mandela instructed her to “not speak like a politician” at her funeral.

“She said ‘Comfort my children’,” recalled Zwane of her boss, who she described as being “always” late. 

“I said she’d be late for her own funeral,” Zwane reminisced, describing Madikizela-Mandela as a mother, friend and boss.

Zwane, who came to the employ of Madikizela-Mandela in 2007, also reflected on how she met the struggle heroine, who passed away on 2 April following a long illness. 

At their first meeting, Madikizela-Mandela congratulated Zwane on her choice of outfit. That job interview focused only on fashion, said Zwane, as she chuckled. 

“I was excited to have spoken to her,” said Zwane, who for the next six months, told nobody about who her employer was. 

She recalled how two weeks before her passing, Mama Winnie informed her how she wanted to go on the Zion Church pilgrimage in Moria, Limpopo, which would become a trip she later changed her mind about. 

She recalled how Mama Winnie eventually went to her local church in Soweto for the Easter Church service instead. 

Zwane recalled the warmth with which Madikizela-Mandela would greet others. 

“There’s nobody I know who is able to greet [everyone]. To her, each person was important,” said Zwane. 

Among those who paid tribute to Mama Winnie was Inkosi Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi, who expressed his condolences and sympathy to the family. 

“Fellow South Africans, a very big tree has fallen,” he said. 

Meanwhile the Deputy Secretary General of the ANC, Jessie Duarte extended gratitude to the Mandela and Madikizela families.

“You shared a phenomenal person with us. She gave everything she had. She gave us her life and commitment. She did not betray the revolution,” said Duarte.

President Cyril Ramaphosa has declared a Special Official Funeral Category for the 81-year-old. 

The memorial service, which precedes her funeral on Saturday, was held at Orlando Stadium and attended by several Cabinet Ministers and dignitaries, with the main address delivered by Deputy President David Mabuza.

These included Communications Minister Nomvula Mokonyane, Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs Minister Zweli Mkhize and Public Works Minister Thulas Nxesi, among others.

Former First Lady and widow of the late President Nelson Mandela, Graca Machel, was also in attendance. –

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