“Your legacy is everlasting. Rest in peace, my BIG sister,” Nelson Mandela’s widow, Graça Machel on Winnie Mandela’s death

Winnie and Graca sharing a light moment on 2 August 2008 during Nelson Mandel’s 90th birthday in Pretoria, South Africa.
AFP/ Gianluigi GUERCIA

They were both at one time  married to one of the most famous man in the world – Nelson Mandela. And when the apartheid hero and first black president of South Africa began to frail  due to ill health in his advanced age, both Winnie Mandela who died at the age of 81 on 2 April,  and Graca Machel (72) were united in the pursuance of his wellbeing right to the day he died on 5 December 2013. Both women – freedom fighters in their own right, were on Madiba’s side the day of his passing. They stood shoulder to shoulder in grief during his burial and the mourning period.


In a statement released today, Ms Machel described her grief on the passing of Winnie Madikizela-Mandela as something she is finding it hard to accept, signing it off with “Love and Respect Always. Your little sister, Graça”

We share it unedited below:

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, Graça




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