Winnie was a leader in her own right: ANC Veterans League

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Winnie Madikizela-Mandela turns 81

JOHANNESBURG - The late struggle stalwart Winnie Madikizela-Mandela was a leader in her own right, the ANC Veterans League said on Wednesday.

The "mother of the nation" died on Monday.

The Veterans League has joined thousands of people paying tribute to the struggle stalwart.

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"She was a leader in her own right. She was not in the struggle because she was married to Nelson Mandela, but was a committed and dedicated member of the ANC. She was a pillar of our struggle for liberation in the struggle against the most atrocious apartheid regime," said Veterans League president Snuki Zikalala.

He also remembered the first time he met Madikizela-Mandela.

“I was introduced to the ANC, when I was very young, angry and militant, by Winnie Mandela, and worked with her when it was not fashionable to be associated with our glorious movement. I remember vividly when I met her in 1966 in downtown Johannesburg where she was working as a secretary.

"We spoke quietly in hushed tones on how evil and atrocious the apartheid system was, a system which denied millions of South Africans their birthright. The topic then focused on the hated Bantu education system designed for black South Africans, the appalling and segregated living conditions, how workers’ rights were trampled upon on a daily basis, and the daily harassment and torture of those who dared raise their voices in defiance of the obnoxious system where blacks were made hewers of wood and drawers of waters," Zikalala said.

READ: Africa pays tribute to Winnie

He said when some of the freedom fighters left the country in 1974 to reinforce the activities of the ANC in exile, Madikizela-Mandela remained as a pillar of the struggle in the country.

"She expressed bravery, always fighting for the interest of the poor. She strived to overcome the terrible conditions of apartheid and never gave up," said Zikalala.