This past Monday, Winnie Madikizela Mandela, passed away at the age of 81. She was a freedom fighter, an anti-apartheid activist, and ex-wife to Nelson Mandela. She also served as a member of the South African parliament from 1994-2003 and from 2009 until her death. She was known as simply “Mother of the Nation” in South Africa.

Although Winnie was best known to the world as being Nelson’s strong partner for the 27 years he was in prison, she was also a fierce activist in her own rights.

To celebrate her life and commemorate her death, South Africa has declared 10 days of national mourning and a state funeral will be held on April 14th.

Among those celebrating Winnie’s life is Mandela’s widow Graca Machel. She wrote a heartfelt letter addressed to the celebrated freedom fighter not long after her passing.

It reads as follows:

My Big Sister,

It is with a heavy heart that I address you today. As I struggle to accept your transition, I take solace in the fact that you have risen to become one of the brightest stars in the sky where you will remain ever present and radiantly shining. You will continue to serve as a guide to your loving family, your grateful nation, our beloved Africa, and indeed, the world.

The extraordinary life you led is an example of resilient fortitude and inextinguishable passion that is a source of inspiration to us all of how to courageously confront challenges with unwavering strength and determination. Thank you for your brilliant wisdom, your fierce defiance, and your stylish beauty.

Fortunately, stars shine brightest during the darkest of hours. I know you will continue to illuminate our sky, even through the storms and clouds. Your legacy will be an uplifting beacon from which we can continue to draw guidance and strength during difficult times.

You loved our people unconditionally and sacrificed so much for our freedom. It is my prayer that as befitting tributes are paid to you both at home and abroad, all of us will internalize the values you helped to mould and birth into existence. As a nation, I hope we will stand tall and proud, and as uncompromising as you were in the defense and protection of our rights. As one of our brightest stars, continue to be the lioness that protects your children and your grandchildren. Warm their hearts so that while your transition may shake them, it does not break their spirit.

Your legacy is everlasting. Take a well-deserved rest in peace, my BIG sister.

Love and Respect Always,
Your little sister, Gra├ža


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