Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa attended the event, where he commended Madikizela-Mandela for showing the world that women have an important role to play in shaping the course of history.
“Indeed, Mama Winnie has had a life of mixed fortunes, taking it in her stride to represent everything about the tenacity of the human spirit,” he said, referring to her as imbokoto (a rock).
“But she is not any other rock, she is a diamond, built to last a lifetime, built never to break.”
He said Madikizela-Mandela was deprived of a normal family life, the absence of her husband, banned and imprisoned at will, but she stood firm. He praised her for defying the odds and raising her children in the absence of their father.
When the apartheid police came for her, Deputy President Ramaphosa said, she remained stoic in her determination to claim justice for her people.
“She remained a symbol of strength for the many women who had lost their husbands to the liberation struggle. Enduring the worst in the times of oppression, she ensured that the people would not lose heart.
“She served as a pictogram for those who lived in constant harassment from the apartheid state. Regardless of her own pain, she ensured that the children and families of liberation were clothed and fed.
“Her greatest accolade was to ensure that Madiba [her late ex-husband Nelson Mandela] would never be forgotten, that his name would remain on the lips of the oppressed people of the world,” said Deputy President Ramaphosa.
He said away from the glaring eye of the public, Madikizela-Mandela shouldered her pain alone, with inadequate recognition for her sacrifices.
“That is why her 80th birthday is so important for us to tell her while the gods have spared her, we love her and thank her for keeping our struggle alive.”
Deputy President Ramaphosa said from Madikizela-Mandela’s book of life, future generations will take a leaf on what it means to be a phenomenal woman.