JOHANNESBURG– Family, friends, government officials, members of the diplomatic corps and ordinary South Africans turned up in the thousands here Wednesday to bid the woman who became known as the face of the South African liberation movement, Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, goodbye in song and praise.

In an official memorial service held in her honour at the Orlando Stadium in Soweto, Johannesburg, those who knew Madikizela-Mandela spoke of her as a selfless leader who was always ready to lend a hand.

In his keynote address at the memorial, Deputy President David Mabuza said Mama Winnie, as she was affectionately known, gave without expecting anything in return. Her activism cut across race, gender and class. Hers was to serve humanity in its totality. She gave without expecting anything in return, said Mabuza.

The stadium, which is a stone’s throw away from the home of Mama Winnie, erupted in song as mourners celebrated the life of the heroine. Her daughters Zindzi and Zenani Mandela, grandchildren and former first Lady and widow of the late Nelson Mandela, Graca Michel, were among those present.

Government officials including Cabinet Ministers, Deputy Ministers, leaders of various political parties and high ranking officials such as the Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng and Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi were also present to bid farewell to the mother of the nation.

Political party members and supporters also came out in their numbers, donning their varying regalia and singing in unison to celebrate the liberation struggle stalwart.

In the past few days, Mama Winnie’s sense of universalism was echoed by millions across the world, and the visits to her home by various leaders and people from different political persuasions is testimony to her status as a global freedom fighter, said the Deputy President.

Making reference to a social media campaign that erupted in celebration of Mama by young women who wore all black and donned doeks, Mabuza said the family should take comfort in the idea that the youth will take forward Mama Winnie’s baton of freedom.

May you be consoled in the knowledge that across the length and breadth of our country and the world, young people are opening their eyes and proclaiming that Mama Winnie Madikizela-Mandela did not die, but she multiplied, said Mabuza.

Mama Winnie will be laid to rest on Saturday in a Special Official category 1 Funeral as declared by President Cyril Ramaphosa following her death on Easter Monday, April 2. A Special Official Funeral will see military honours displayed in tribute to Mama Winnie.

Heads of State, such as the likes of Namibian President Hage Geingob and others are expected to be in attendance. United States civil rights activist Jesse Jackson is also expected to attend Mama Winnie’s final send off.

The ten day period of mourning which was declared by the President will also draw to a close on the Saturday evening after the mother of the nation is laid to rest.