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'Winnie!' South Africa Says Farewell

Former wife of Nelson Mandela is celebrated at funeral, though legacy is mixed
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Apr 14, 2018 9:15 AM CDT

(Newser) – Millions of South Africans said an emotional goodbye to anti-apartheid icon Winnie Madikizela-Mandela on Saturday during her official funeral, with supporters fiercely defending her complex legacy. Thousands of mourners packed a 40,000-seat stadium to celebrate the powerful figure who will be buried as a national hero, after lively debate over how she should be remembered after her death on April 2 at age 81, per the AP. Often called the "Mother of the Nation" and "Mama Winnie," Madikizela-Mandela fought to keep South Africa's anti-apartheid struggle in the international spotlight while her husband, Nelson Mandela, was imprisoned.

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"Long before it was fashionable to call for Nelson Mandela's release from Robben Island, it was my mother who kept his memory alive," elder daughter Zenani Mandela-Dlamini said, as the audience erupted in cheers. Many South Africans have stood up for Madikizela-Mandela's memory against critics who have characterized her as a problematic figure who was implicated in political violence after she returned from years of banishment in a rural town. Condolences have poured in from around the world in remembrance of one of the 20th century's most prominent political activists. Civil rights leader Jesse Jackson, who attended the funeral, said Friday that Madikizela-Mandela was responsible for making the anti-apartheid movement "a global struggle."

(Read more Winnie Madikizela-Mandela stories.)

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