Winnie Mandela's poignant farewell to One Young World

We mourn the loss of Winnie Mandela and extend our deepest condolences to her loved ones. We were fortunate to have hosted her at the One Young World 2013 Summit in Johannesburg where she gave a touching address. The OYW community reflects on her passing - rest in peace Mama Winnie.  

Kate Robertson. Co-founder, One Young World

"On the last day of One Young World 2013 Johannesburg we had an unexpected guest. I was called backstage at the start of the Closing festivities – and there she was, the icon that was – and is still – Winnie Madikizela Mandela. As she smothered me in a huge hug I was stunned and bewildered.  She made it clear that she wished to address the Summit Her praise-singer went on stage and there she was – hit by a wall of sound as 1300+ delegates, led by the South African young leaders roared at the tops of their voices welcoming her. She had tears in her eyes - she was loved but was in need of that love.

I thought her speech that day was important – so did the news networks which led every single news bulletin with it the following day.  Her message resounds with me still: when leaders and governments get it wrong young people have the right to criticize them, the right to object. Ever since then I have noticed the leaders of many governments, when challenged, resort to complaining that they are being disrespected and that this is unacceptable i.e. criticism is itself unacceptable. Mama Afrika said not only was it not unacceptable but that she believed that she, and her generation of leaders was failing young South Africans at that time, that what they’d done wasn’t good enough and that the younger generation would be right to hold them to account.  She felt she herself had the right to criticize the ANC government – and that any citizen had and should exercise that right. It was a message for everyone everywhere – hold leadership to account.

RIP Mama Afrika with all the souls who left the world in the struggle against apartheid and in the violence that beset  The Beloved Country."

Messages from OYW Counsellors:


Kofi Annan. Seventh UN Secretary-General:

“Winnie Madikizela-Mandela was a voice of defiance who refused to be silenced. Her life was a testament to both the strengths and weaknesses of the human character. Winnie Madikizela-Mandela’s courage and resilience inspired a generation of activists, both in South Africa and around the world.”

Advocate Thuli Madonsela. Former Public Protector, South Africa

"Of great solace is the fact that Mama Winnie leaves a legacy of selfless struggle as one of the epic leaders who snatched South Africa from the brink of catastrophe and placed the nation on a pedestal of hope."

Archbishop Desmond Tutu

“She refused to be bowed by the imprisonment of her husband, the perpetual harassment of her family by security forces, detentions, bannings and banishment. Her courageous defiance was deeply inspirational to me, and to generations of activists. Leah and I send our heartfelt condolences to her daughters‚ grandchildren and extended family. May she rest in peace and rise in glory.”

Emmanuel Jal. Former child soldier & peace activist

"Mother of revolution has gone to rest : her contribution to restore balance was global: her vibrations transformed many to stand their ground with courage and face their fears with their lives: When people talk about heroes here is one The warrior woman:  I met her at One Young World in Johannesburg and she told me the same words as Nelson Mandela she said 'I know about the suffering in your country continue to good fight my son. I will light a Candle tonight.' Now the good I will take it inside myself to walk in my purpose and share my experiences for social emotional learning to create conscious global awakening.  Rest In Peace mama."

From our OYW Ambassadors:

Alisha Naik:

"Thank you Mam Winnie! I celebrate my freedom as a non-white South African female today because of the selflessness of your sacrifice. It is never easy when we lose an apartheid struggle veteran. It was through her work and the work of other revolutionaries that we are able to call South Africa ‘home’.

Mam Winnie – you have passed the baton onto us, the young South African leaders of today. We will make you proud. We will stand tall on your shoulders and continue to fight the good fight to decrease the inequalities plaguing our nation today. We will lift others as we rise and we will prosper – together as a nation.

I have never had the pleasure of meeting you, but I have no doubt that our paths will cross again. You will forever be remembered for the fearless, resilient leader that you were. Thank you Mam Winnie!"

Vuyo Dubese:

"Winnie Madikizela-Mandela did not earn her name associated with stalwart and icon of Apartheid and present South Africa by being a mere auxiliary to Mandela’s ANC, nor was she a product of his politics.

She was an educated woman, brought up and made socially conscious by women like her grandmother Seyina Madikizela, and believed and actioned in not only women’s but human rights too.

I hope her story, as Winnie Madikizela-Mandela continues being told and continues to ignite a flame in young people and women to keep the fire ablaze and to continue to fight for dignity in human rights."

Tefo Mokhine:

"I wish for the young people of the world to learn from Mama Winnie Madikizela-Mandela these two things. First, the power of education in transforming one's personal life and to further use that knowledge and skills to impact our communities. That is what she did from early in her life. Second, to be fearless and courageous in confronting the injustices of our lives. In her time, Mama Winnie and her generation of young people then, had to fight, protest and boycott. In our generation, we have to mobilise for collaboration, construction and shaping of the future we want for ourselves and our children."


Mbali Misimeki:

​​"Acknowledging all the sacrifice, commitment and leadership she provided to our nation, Winnie Madikizela-Mandela will also be remembered as a phenomenally courageous and resilient leader. Many Social Workers in South Africa looked up to her as she was always goal oriented and people centred. Practising as a medical social worker challenged the gender and racial stereotypes in society and there was indeed a paradigm shift in the Social Work Profession. Her journey and history resembles a life filled with possibilities. If your vision only concerns yourself, then you have not yet discovered your life purpose."