Mama Winnie: 'Bury me next to my mother and my father'

Friend and former neighbour says Winnie wanted to 'sleep' at home again

08 April 2018 - 00:00 By SIPHE MACANDA

Sometimes the old woman's memory is hazy; today she can't remember exactly how old she is.
But Nomzamo Winnie Madikizela-Mandela's wish is implanted in her memory.
"When I die I want to sleep here at home, next to my father and mother," Mampini Chagi recalls being told by her former neighbour years ago.
That time came on Monday for the 81-year-old Madikizela-Mandela."Zanyiwe wanted to be buried next to her father and mother here in Mbhongweni," Chagi maintained.
Chagi, who lives next to the Madikizela family home in Mbhongweni village near Bizana, said the last time she had seen Madikizela-Mandela was at the funeral of the Madikizela brother some years ago.
"I cannot recall what year it was but I remember correctly that when the funeral was over, she called us.
"I left everything I was doing and went to listen to her. She said: 'When I die I want to sleep here at home next to my father and mother.'"
Chagi remembered how shocked and hurt she was when she learnt this week that Madikizela-Mandela would be buried in Gauteng, even though she had apparently told them of her intentions.
She knew Madikizela-Mandela as a young woman, until she left to study elsewhere."She was like my child because her mother died when she was still young. She grew up in front of me and now I cannot even say my last goodbyes to her.
"When I got married and moved next to her home, she was still a very young, vibrant girl who was up for any challenge," she said.
The old woman smiled at the memory of how Madikizela-Mandela loved stick-fighting and how she helped look after her father's cattle.
"I remember one day when she went with some boys and girls near [the river] to get sticks. Her father came to my house to look for her because there were some chores she was supposed to do. I lied to him that she went to get umfino [wild spinach]. I could not tell him the truth because she was going to be sjambokked," Chagi said, giggling.
Among her anecdotes was when Nelson Mandela came to court her.
"Mandela approached her father and her father told him that yes, he had girls. When the time was right, the Madiba delegation came. I helped to dress her and six other girls in traditional attire for the ceremony.
"Mandela came, pointed out Winnie and said: 'This one, this is the one.' The rest is history, as you know," she said.
In 2006 the family home was turned into a tourism site on the OR Tambo Route.
When the Sunday Times team visited the home this week, some of the old buildings were in a state of disrepair.
A four-roomed building that her father used as a shop was dilapidated; all the walls were cracked. Outside, municipal workers had cut the grass, but the garden, where the graves of Madikizela-Mandela's parents stand side by side, was overgrown.
About 200m from there is the home of an old friend, 82-year-old Zuziwe Qwatekana. Winnie and Qwatekana met at Mbhongweni Primary and their friendship has remained strong.
"We used to go to school events and play netball together. Because there was a shop at [the Madikizela] house she brought things for me so that I could also have something to eat like other kids," said Qwatekana.
She said few people of their generation were still alive in the village.
"Two are in very bad health and you can see that I cannot walk but I am still mentally fit," she said.
The last time she saw her old friend was when Madikizela-Mandela came to bury her brother.
Condolence books have been placed at a number of venues, including OR Tambo International Airport, parliament, Tuynhuys, the Union Buildings, all provincial legislatures, offices of the nine premiers, as well as in Brandfort, where Madikizela-Mandela was banished to, and the Eastern Cape towns of Mthatha, where she was born, and Bizana, where she was raised.
Winnie was the fifth of nine children. Her father was a history teacher who made sure his children were familiar with Pondo culture. Her mother was a science teacher who died from tuberculosis when Winnie was a child. The disease also claimed the life of an elder sister.

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