A former Nigerian president, Olusegun Obasanjo, on Thursday said Winnie Madikizela, the late wife of ex-South African President, Nelson Mandela, remains one of the greatest women ever produced by the African continent.
Mr Obasanjo in a condolence letter to the South African President, Cyril Ramaphosa, said the death of Mrs Mandela “is a big loss, not only to her immediate family and country but to the whole of Africa.”
”Winnie was, without doubt, one of the greatest women to have walked the African earth. The death of a leader of Mrs Winnie Mandela’s stature is a big loss, not only to her immediate family and country but to the whole of Africa. History will record her vital contributions to the realisation of the dream of regional unity in Southern Africa, which would not have been possible without South Africa being free. By so doing, she has left a legacy of development and vision of unity which made the world a better place than she met it,” Mr Obasanjo wrote.
He also recalled the strides made by the deceased globally known as ‘Mama Africa’.
“It was Winnie’s high profile that kept fuelling the anti-apartheid movement inside South Africa and for which she paid a high price. She was arrested, she was detained, she was harassed and molested. It needs no recounting that, early in her life, she was deprived of the companionship of her husband, Nelson Mandela, for 27 years. During this period, she was solely responsible for bringing up her two daughters. At the same time, Winnie displayed to the whole world a most admirable strength of character, as she valiantly stood for her husband and the African National Congress (ANC) Movement and, in the process, assumed the stature of an icon of resistance to the evil of apartheid.
“The world also watched with horror how Winnie, after the release of her husband from prison, suffered awfully in the hands of her detractors who relentlessly continued to assassinate her character. Consequently, not only was Winnie unable to savour the affection in resuming the companionship, her marriage was tragically shattered. It is clear that only the toughness of Winnie’s personal constitution had sustained her from disintegrating into a nervous wreck.
“But Winnie’s commitment to the ANC as well as her devotion to serving the cause of the underprivileged remained undiminished. She was one of the significant figures that met with the Eminent Persons Group (EPG), of which I was a member, on South Africa against apartheid, and her testimony to the EPG made a significant impression on the Group and the final report subsequently produced for consideration by the Commonwealth. No doubt, all of these impacted positively on the social stability and democratic progress recorded thus far in South Africa.”
Mr Obasanjo talked about his personal experiences with the Mandela family.
”On a personal note, I recall when Nelson Mandela came out of prison and I was in South Africa, Nelson Mandela invited me to his Soweto house where I spent a night and I had almost a whole night long discussion with him and Winnie, sharing reminisces with them. It was, indeed, a pleasant and memorable night.
“We mourn the death of this great lady and progenitor of contemporary Africa. We salute her legendary achievements in laying the foundation of modern day South Africa. As I urge you to take solace in the fact that Winnie lived a highly fulfilled life, rest assured that we stand with you and her family in this hour of great sorrow,” the ex-Nigerian leader added.