New York – UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed have paid glowing tributes to late Winifred “Winnie” Madikizela-Mandela, describing her as a strong and fearless woman.
Guterres and Mohammed, while also condoling the Government and people of South Africa and the family of late Mandela, recalled her towering figure in the struggle against apartheid.
Guterres, in his remarks at a memorial service in honour of Winnie, who died on April 2, said: “As a strong and fearless woman, she had to fight patriarchy’s definitions of womanhood.
“In apartheid South Africa, the combination of patriarchy and racism together meant that black women confronted enormous obstacles from the cradle to the grave — making her own achievements all the more exceptional.
“Her advocacy for women’s rights, including in her role as president of the ANC Women’s League, reflected her dedication to justice.
“Her support of young people and their crucial contribution to a society’s development also highlighted her commitment to the inclusion and rights of groups often overlooked”.
He said in the decades-long fight against apartheid, the UN stood with Mandela and all those in South Africa, who faced unrelenting racism and discrimination.
“Faced with the most heinous of racist and discriminatory regimes, she helped lead the way in showing what it takes to overcome such tyranny — strength, defiance and courage.
“She endured surveillance, harassment, torture and imprisonment, including in solitary confinement, making huge personal sacrifices.
“Yet, through her resistance, she inspired countless others and helped keep hope alive through the darkest periods of the struggle,” he said.
For Mohammed, she was and would remain a “force multiplier”.
“She loomed larger than life and was the mother of the anti-apartheid struggle”.
The UN deputy chief said the late activist kept the anti-apartheid movement going while so many men were imprisoned or exiled.
“Winnie was the daughter of Africa who embodied the proverb ‘When you strike a woman, you strike a rock’.
“The women of South Africa kept the struggle firmly on the international agenda. And Winnie Mandela was the glue. Sadly, that came at great cost.
“Perhaps no one made such a personal sacrifice over such a prolonged period — all the while bringing up her family. She was personally targeted.
“She was internally exiled — isolated, tortured, sent off to remote, desolate spaces. She endured hardships we will never know. But Winnie Mandela refused to break,” Mohammed said. (NAN)