Archbishop William Slattery, spokesperson for the Southern African Catholic Bishops' Conference (SACBC) has released the following statement extending the condolences of the Church to the family of Madikizela Mandela.
The Roman Catholic Church extends sincere sympathies to the Madikizela and Mandela families on the passing of the matriarch, Nomzama Winnie Mandela. For over 50 years Winnie Mandela was a major figure in the struggle for a free and democratic South Africa. For her that struggle involved separation from her husband and children, banishment, continual surveillance while bearing the expectations of the oppressed millions. Her life was played out against the background of world attention.
Winnie Mandela was a committed activist, she was a courageous leader. She was much more than just the wife of Nelson Mandela, she had many identities. In her resistance to oppression and in her hatred of injustice she inspired a whole country, galvanized the youth and inspired women. In the dark and oppressive years her resistance to apartheid was like a trumpet call to thousands not to fall but to arise and press on.
She has a complex history. Mistakes were made arising from a suffering and impetuous heart. To witness the deep humiliations of one's people every day, to observe as a social worker the blanket inequality of access to welfare, health, schools, land and basic rights were bound to cloud the mind. One is inclined to remember Debora and some of the other great women of the Old Testament.
Winnie Mandela was a world figure and this enabled her to speak where millions of other women could not. Yet, her courage, her thirst for justice for all, black and white, her inspired and persistent defiance towards an unjust system was historic and will inspire many in the future.
On Good Friday two days before her death she spent 5 hours in Church, may she now meet and encounter her Lord face to face.
May she rest in peace.