Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa and Economic Freedom Fighters leader Julius Malema may “disagree on many things” but they both agree on Winnie Madikizela-Mandela’s “everlasting beauty”.
Madikizela-Mandela celebrated her upcoming 80th birthday with a dinner at the renowned Belmond Mount Nelson Hotel in Cape Town on Wednesday night.
The guest list included first lady Bongi Ngema-Zuma‚ her daughter Zindzi Mandela‚ the EFF’s Malema and Dali Mpofu‚ Cape Town mayor Patricia de Lille and other politicians‚ musicians and family members of Madikizela-Mandela.
Dapper tailored suits and elegant evening dresses filled the Planet Restaurant and Bar but it was Madikizela-Mandela’s white and blue gown that stole the show.
She was escorted into the venue on the arm of Ramaphosa‚ who later addressed the guests on the accolades and characteristics of the former wife of statesman Nelson Mandela.
Over two hours behind schedule‚ the dinner proceedings began after 9pm. The menu consisted of a set menu with a light starter of asparagus‚ a fish or a meat main‚ and a trio of citrus for dessert.
With little needed to enhance the appeal of the venue‚ plain white tablecloths with centre-pieces of indigenous flowers‚ candles and glassware sufficed as the added décor.
Following the main meal and a musical interlude‚ Ramaphosa took to the podium to share his best wishes to Madikizela-Mandela.
“The official records tell us that mam’ uWinnie Mandela is 80 something — so she is turning 80.
“Much as Julius Malema and I disagree on many things we agree on mam uWinnie Mandela’s lasting beauty‚” Ramaphosa said‚ which saw the entire dining room erupt with applause.
“Mama thank you for bringing‚ as you have always done‚ various people together.
“Bringing Patricia de Lille‚ myself and other members of the ANC as well as Julius and Dali Mpofu‚ wow!
“You are indeed the mother of the nation. But you also have another attribute which is your enduring vitality.
“She’s been over the years‚ a constant companion throughout our lives and throughout our struggles.
“She has been a mother‚ a comrade‚ a comforter.
“When like Madiba‚ she was banished from our presence‚ she remained present in our consciousness and in our hearts.
“Her life has been marked by service. Service to our people‚ remembering that man uWinnie was the first servant social worker among black people in this country. But her life has also been marked by unbelievable sacrifice.
“Mam uWinnie is not just any rock‚ she is a diamond‚ built to shine‚ built to last and built never to break.
“Winnie Mandela has helped to shape the history of South Africa‚” Ramaphosa added.
The Deputy President was followed by Madikizela-Mandela’s daughter Zindzi Mandela who shared personal qualities and characteristics of her mother that not many of us know.
She highlighted her mother’s love for gardening‚ shopping‚ hoarding and spending time with her grandchildren and great grandchildren.
“There are many books written about her‚ documentaries produced and so on. But there are also some parts of her that people don’t know about.
“My mother is a very keen gardener. I for example was two hours late for my wedding because my mother had to water the garden‚” Zindzi said. “But that is my mother‚ she loves to be surrounded by beautiful things and she loves to make beautiful things grow‚ it’s just her nature.”
The evening ended shortly after Madikizela-Mandela took to the podium to offer her gratitude towards the guests.
Keeping her speech light-hearted and humorous‚ she nevertheless referred to some of the more serious topics addressed during Parliament sittings — while poking fun at some of the well-known attendees.
“I am honestly not speaking today Julius. I am not going to say one word that’s going to be discussed in Luthuli House.
“Deputy President I am not going to say a thing about Marikana.
“And you Patricia‚ you know the trouble you once put me through in Parliament. One day you storm into Parliament‚ you don’t even get yourself recognised‚ and you said: ‘I know who are the sell-outs here in this house’. And instead of everybody turning and looking at you‚ everybody turned and looked at me‚” Madikizela-Mandela said.
Madikizela-Mandela added that she hoped Malema was “tricking” De Lille when he “gave her all the metros”.
“Because I know you‚ you didn’t mean a word of that‚” she said as her guests‚ including De Lille and Malema‚ broke into laughter once more.
The guest of honour‚ who had surgery on her back in March and April‚ told the room that when she “gets well”‚ she plans to lead a campaign for the widows and orphans of Marikana.
“Amandla‚” she said‚ which was followed by a prompt and expressive “awethu”.
Madikizela-Mandela was born on September 26‚ 1936. A tribute concert is being hosted in her honour in Cape Town today.