Stalwart Winnie Madikizela-Mandela was reduced to tears by the huge turnout at her birthday celebration at the Orlando West garden in Soweto.
Mama Winnie‚ as she is affectionately known‚ turned 80 yesterday.
Clad in a green‚ black and gold ANC Women’s League (ANCWL) T-shirt and a black skirt‚ Madikizela-Mandela arrived a few minutes late in high spirits.
The women’s league had arranged to bring in members from various provinces, including the Free State‚ Limpopo and Eastern Cape‚ all dressed in green party T-shirts, as a surprise for her.
“I am actually speechless. I am finding it very difficult to talk to you,” Madikizela-Mandela said at the event.
“Emotions you have evoked today are the emotions of pre-1994 when we were fighting.
“What you have done for me‚ I cannot even begin to thank you.
“I didn’t expect it … it’s the first time I am having a broad celebration of this nature.”
Her birthday celebrations have been going on since early this month in various parts of the country, including Cape Town.
ANCWL bigwigs at the party included its president, Bathabile Dlamini, and the treasurer-general, International Relations Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane. “When I see you like this I can’t even thank you. Such genuine love is not for me‚ it’s for all the giants that came before me,” Madikizela-Mandela said.
She also pleaded with the ANC to end the infighting in the party.
Artists Lundi and Sechaba kept the crowd entertained while food and drinks were being served.
The celebrations were set to continue at a gala dinner at Emperors’ Palace last night. People around the nation took to social media to post birthday wishes to Madikizela-Mandela‚ including celebrities Ntsiki Mazwai‚ Jabu Mahlangu‚ Hlubi Mboya‚ Sthandiwe Kgoroge and Arthur Mafokate.
Poet and musician Ntsiki wrote a touching birthday message to “the mother who sacrificed everything for us” and later advocated for a special Winnie Mandela Day to honour her.
The ANC, said “Madikizela-Mandela had been and remained the embodiment of the resilience and tenacity of the South African people.
“As a movement and a people‚ the ANC owes an enormous debt of gratitude to Comrade Winnie and her generation of freedom fighters who were an unshakeable mark and unwavering beacon of hope during the darkest days of our history‚” party spokesman Zizi Kodwa said.