Soweto, South Africa (CNN)South Africans gathered Saturday to bid farewell to Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, an anti-apartheid icon hailed as the mother of a nation and a political force.
Crowds packed Orlando Stadium in Johannesburg’s Soweto township for the funeral following a private service at the home of Madikizela-Mandela, the former wife of the late Nelson Mandela, who served as South Africa’s President after fighting for decades to deliver the nation from apartheid. Mourners followed her coffin in procession into the stadium, where the funeral began with the singing of the national anthem.
— South African Government (@GovernmentZA) April 14, 2018 Her daughter, Zenani Mandela-Dlamini, was among the speakers at the funeral. Dignitaries also included Presidents of the Republic of Congo and Namibia, as well as civil rights leaders from around the world, including the Rev. Jesse Jackson.”She made a choice to raise two families, hers and the beloved country,” Mandela-Dlamini said. “She cherished freedom as much as she treasured family. She protected both from constant assault from apartheid state.” Read MoreThe flag-draped casket carrying Winnie Madikizela-Mandela’s remains arrives Saturday, April 14, 2018, at Orlando Stadium in Johannesburg, South Africa.Madikizela-Mandela died this month in a Johannesburg hospital after a long illness. She was 81. As one of the country’s most prominent and polarizing figures, she retained political clout long after her divorce from Mandela. Since apartheid ended in the 1990s, she served in several government roles, including as a member of parliament and leader of the ruling party’s women’s league.”Today, we lay to rest our heroine, a struggle stalwart and mother-to-the-nation,” the government tweeted Saturday. It offered free rides for those who wanted to attend the funeral. Mourners pack the stands at Soweto’s Orlando stadium for Saturday’s funeral.In his eulogy, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa said Madikizela-Mandela was “an African woman who — in her attitude, her words and her actions — defied the very premise of apartheid ideology and male superiority.”Opposition leader rips ‘sellouts’Some speakers used the occasion to blast people — even some in the African National Congress, or ANC, the ruling political party to which Madikizela-Mandela belonged — who didn’t stand by her during her legal troubles.Winnie Madikizela-Mandela’s image serves as a backdrop at her funeral Saturday at Orlando Stadium in Soweto, as Julius Malema, leader of the Economic Freedom Fighters populist opposition party, pays tribute to her. Those difficulties included an incident in December 1988, when her bodyguards, known as the Mandela United Football Club, kidnapped four boys belonging to another anti-apartheid party. One of them, Stompie Moeketsi, was murdered a few days later. In May 1991, she was sentenced to six years in prison for kidnapping in relation to the incident — allegations she denied — but the sentence was later reduced to a fine.At Saturday’s funeral, Julius Malema, leader of the Economic Freedom Fighters leftist populist opposition party, gave a fiery speech excoriating those who turned their backs on her.Winnie Mandela, South African anti-apartheid crusader, dies at 81He repeatedly alleged that some who disowned Madikizela-Mandela amid her difficulties were at the funeral — drawing roars from a crowd of tens of thousands. He rhetorically asked Madikizela-Mandela to give him a sign about how to treat them.”What is funny, Mama, is that they are crying the loudest, more than all of us who cared for you,” Malema, a friend of Madikizela-Mandela’s, said. “We see you in your beautiful suits. Betrayers! Sellouts! We see you.””If it is true that the ANC honors Winnie Mandela, name the Cape Town airport Winnie Mandela Airport,” he said, ending his speech to huge applause.Her daughter, Mandela-Dlamini, touched on the same theme.”Those that vilified my mother in book and in the media, don’t think for a minute we’ve forgotten,” she said.’Shoulder to shoulder with men’Thousands of mourners had gathered Wednesday for a public memorial in Soweto, where Madikizela-Mandel lived for decades. Mourners wore black, green and gold — colors of the ruling African National Congress political party. Others wore T-shirts emblazoned with an image of Madikizela-Mandel. Deputy President David Mabuza described her as a visionary who championed reconciliation.”You taught young women across the nation that they are just as capable, if not more capable, of standing shoulder to shoulder with men and being totally unapologetic about it,” Mabuza said. “Till death, you knew who your enemy was: racial domination, class exploitation, gender oppression.”A man holds a frame showing newspaper clippings of Madikizela-Mandela during a memorial service in Soweto on Wednesday, three days before the funeral.Mandela’s former wifeNelson Mandela, with his then-wife, Winnie Mandela, leaves prison in 1990.Madikizela-Mandela was married to Nelson Mandela for 38 years, including the 27 years he was imprisoned on an island near Cape Town. While Mandela was imprisoned at Robben Island, she became his voice, providing regular updates to followers hungry for every detail. When Mandela left prison in 1990, she stood next to him, one hand clasped in his as they raised their free hands clenched in fists — a moment memorialized in a photo that became a symbol of his freedom.While their marriage withstood the battle against apartheid, it couldn’t withstand the pressure of freedom. Mandela accused her of infidelity, and they divorced in 1996, two years after he was elected the first black president of South Africa.Parliament memberAt the time of Madikizela-Mandela’s death, the longtime stalwart of the ruling party was a member of South Africa’s parliament.Ramaphosa described her as “an advocate for the dispossessed and the marginalized” and “a voice for the voiceless.”
— Rev Jesse Jackson Sr (@RevJJackson) April 13, 2018 “Even at the darkest moments of our struggle for liberation, Mam’ Winnie was an abiding symbol of the desire of our people to be free,” Ramaphosa said in a statement. “In the midst of repression, she was a voice of defiance and resistance. In the face of exploitation, she was a champion of justice and equality.”Born in 1936 in what is now known as Eastern Cape province, Nomzamo Winifred Madikizela was the daughter of a history teacher. Photos: The life of Winnie Madikizela-MandelaWinnie Madikizela-Mandela, an anti-apartheid activist in South Africa and the former wife of late President Nelson Mandela, has died at the age of 81. The outspoken campaigner was known as the “Mother of the Nation” because of her struggle against white minority rule in South Africa. She was a member of South Africa’s parliament at the time of her death.Hide Caption 1 of 21 Photos: The life of Winnie Madikizela-MandelaWinnie Madikizela and Nelson Mandela married in South Africa in 1958.Hide Caption 2 of 21 Photos: The life of Winnie Madikizela-MandelaThe Mandelas were married for 38 years, including the 27 years that he was imprisoned on an island near Cape Town, South Africa.Hide Caption 3 of 21 Photos: The life of Winnie Madikizela-MandelaPeople gather in support of Madikizela-Mandela as she leaves a court in Pretoria, South Africa, in 1964. Her husband had just been sentenced to life in prison.Hide Caption 4 of 21 Photos: The life of Winnie Madikizela-MandelaMadikizela-Mandela is pictured in 1977, during her exile in Brandfort, South Africa.Hide Caption 5 of 21 Photos: The life of Winnie Madikizela-MandelaMadikizela-Mandela, center, celebrates alongside her daughter Zindzi and other supporters following her release from Johannesburg Magistrates Court. She had been arrested for defying a court order that banned her from entering Soweto, an area at the center of the anti-apartheid movement in Johannesburg.Hide Caption 6 of 21 Photos: The life of Winnie Madikizela-MandelaMadikizela-Mandela and her two daughters — Zenani, left, and Zindzi — arrive at Cape Town’s airport to visit her imprisoned husband in 1985.Hide Caption 7 of 21 Photos: The life of Winnie Madikizela-MandelaMadikizela-Mandela is pictured with her grandson in 1986.Hide Caption 8 of 21 Photos: The life of Winnie Madikizela-MandelaMadikizela-Mandela poses in traditional dress in 1986.Hide Caption 9 of 21 Photos: The life of Winnie Madikizela-MandelaMadikizela-Mandela appears at an African National Congress rally in Soweto.Hide Caption 10 of 21 Photos: The life of Winnie Madikizela-MandelaNelson Mandela is joined by his wife after being released from prison in February 1990.Hide Caption 11 of 21 Photos: The life of Winnie Madikizela-MandelaMandela leans in to kiss his wife at a rally in March 1990.Hide Caption 12 of 21 Photos: The life of Winnie Madikizela-MandelaA portrait of the Mandelas. The pair divorced in 1996.Hide Caption 13 of 21 Photos: The life of Winnie Madikizela-MandelaThe Mandelas meet with Coretta Scott King, widow of civil-rights leader Martin Luther King Jr., in 1990.Hide Caption 14 of 21 Photos: The life of Winnie Madikizela-MandelaThe Mandelas are welcomed by former first lady Jackie Kennedy during a visit to Boston in 1990.Hide Caption 15 of 21 Photos: The life of Winnie Madikizela-MandelaMadikizela-Mandela shakes hands with supporters in Rustenburg, South Africa, in 1997. She had just been elected president of the African National Congress Women’s League.Hide Caption 16 of 21 Photos: The life of Winnie Madikizela-MandelaMadikizela-Mandela leads a protest march during an international AIDS conference in Durban, South Africa, in 2000.Hide Caption 17 of 21 Photos: The life of Winnie Madikizela-MandelaMadikizela-Mandela, right, joins her ex-husband and his third wife, Graca Machel, during his 90th birthday celebrations in Tshwane, South Africa, in 2008.Hide Caption 18 of 21 Photos: The life of Winnie Madikizela-MandelaMadikizela-Mandela attends her ex-husband’s state funeral in 2013.Hide Caption 19 of 21 Photos: The life of Winnie Madikizela-MandelaMadikizela-Mandela greets a crowd of supporters in Soweto for her 80th birthday in 2016.Hide Caption 20 of 21 Photos: The life of Winnie Madikizela-MandelaMadikizela-Mandela joins the hands of South African President Jacob Zuma, left, and Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa during an African National Congress policy conference in 2017.Hide Caption 21 of 21As a 22-year-old social worker, she married Nelson Mandela in 1958, and stood by him in the years following his 1964 conviction and life imprisonment for sabotage and conspiracy to overthrow the government.She led an international campaign calling for his release.Outside Africa, she was known largely because of her one-time husband, but in South Africa she was the mouthpiece and face of the bitter struggle against the racist regime.