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"Mother of the Nation"…Thousands gather for memorial for Winnie Madikizela-Mandela

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Struggle stalwart Winnie Madikizela Mandela smiles as she leaves the Nelson Mandela foundation after a memorial briefing for anti-apartheid activist Ahmed Kathrada on 28 March 2017

The woman‚ who asked not to be identified‚ was attending the memorial service of Madikizela-Mandela at Orlando Stadium in Soweto on Wednesday.

Outside Africa, Madikizela-Mandela was known largely because of her ex-husband, but in South Africa she was the mouthpiece and face of the bitter struggle against the racist regime.

Winnie was not afraid of police, and confronted them head on, daring them to shoot, the family friend explained.

Mourners attend a memorial service for late South African anti-apartheid campaigner Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, ex-wife of former South African president Nelson Mandela at Orlando Stadium on April 11, 2018 in Johannesburg, South Africa.

For Jennifer Steyn, who was decked in ANC colours and a doek, remembering Madikizela-Mandela was about honouring the "queen" of SA. "We want to send our honest condolences to the whole family and to her daughters, who are also ambassadors", Ndiaye said.

The crowd exuded a mixed mood of celebration and grief, and grandchild after grandchild took to the podium. The IMC comprises of all relevant stakeholders including the bereaved family of Mama Madikizela-Mandela. "The spear has fallen", he said.

Madikizela-Mandela campaigned tirelessly for her husband Nelson Mandela's release from jail during the years of white minority rule and became a liberation hero in her own right.

An emotional Zwane spoke about the last day she spent with Madikizela-Mandela, 48 hours before she died at Johannesburg's Milpark Hospital on April 2, after a long illness. "She did not betray our struggle", Jessie Duarte deputy secretary general of the ruling African National Congress (ANC) said.

She said economic transformation was not for one group or another.

"All people of South Africa - black and white - need to work together".

"She inspires me and wish other women in the current struggle could be like her", said 18-year-old Zanele Ngubo, who was born after the end of apartheid.

Mabuza said Winnie Mandela was a special person who loved her country to the extent of sacrificing her own life for the struggle of its freedom.

"She was a symbol of hope to many of us", President Cyril Ramaphosa said at a memorial in her hometown on Tuesday.

In 1990 the world watched when Nelson Mandela finally walked free from prison - hand-in-hand with Winnie.

"She was the best we could have", said one of her young great-granddaughters to an ecstatic crowd response.

The choice of Soweto's 37,000-capacity Orlando stadium for both the memorial service and the full state funeral planned for Saturday was highly symbolic. Madikizela-Mandela steadfastly denied any knowledge of any killings.

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