Armed with blankets, food and ANC paraphernalia, hundreds of people are streaming into Orlando Stadium for Winnie Madikizela-Mandela’s memorial service on Wednesday.
Madikizela-Mandela, 81, died in hospital on April 2. She had been in and out of hospital for sometime.
Though the service was expected to start only at 11am, people – mostly elderly women – have already made their way into the stadium.
Manana Mafereka, 68, arrived at 5.15am because she wanted to be early enough to sit next to the toilets. “I am an old woman,” she joked.
Mafereka, from Moroka North in Soweto, said it was important for her to bid farewell to Madikizela-Mandela.
“When we were growing up our parents told us about her and her husband and how they were abused by the Boers (Afrikaners).
“We are here to say thank you and bid her goodbye. She fought for us. After today our hearts will feel better because we would have said goodbye to her.”
Another early arrival was 73-year-old Thoko Hlatshwayo. She and her two friends Poppy Baloyi and Pinky Sokhuthu had travelled from Dobsonville and arrived at the stadium at 7am.
Hlatshwayo said they wanted to arrive as soon as possible to avoid stampedes. The three said because of road closures, the taxi they came in had to drop them off a bit far from the venue.
“Our mother has died and we are here to celebrate her life. She fought for us, especially women.”
On whether they were my worried about the rain, Baloyi said: “it’s only rain. We won’t melt.”
Meanwhile, the stadium was abuzz with sound checks, sweeping and a bit of singing as organisers are doing final checks.
A picture of Madikizela-Mandela adorned big screens at the stadium while the Soweto Gospel Choir sang religious songs.
Singers Brenda Mntambo and Nomfundo Xaluva are also expected to perform at the memorial.
Chief Ngangomhlaba Matanzima will be paying tribute on behalf of the Mandela family while Prince Madikizela will be speaking on behalf of the Madikizelas.
Close family friend Rita Ndzanga is also on the programme.
A tribute by her grandchildren and great-grandchildren will be delivered by Bambatha Mandela, Ziyanda Manaway, Zwelami Mandela, Zama Obiri, Zipho Manaway, Zazi Mandela, Ziwelene Mandela and Zenkosi Manaway.
Madikizela-Mandela’s personal assistant Zodwa Zwane and IFP leader Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi will also pay tribute to the stalwart.
Musician and poet Mzwakhe Mbuli will also deliver an item.