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  1. ITV Report

South Africa says goodbye to national hero Winnie Madikizela-Mandela

Winnie Mandela's coffin is brought into Orlando Stadium in Soweto. Credit: PA

Millions of South Africans are saying goodbye to anti-apartheid activist Winnie Madikizela-Mandela as her emotionally charged official funeral begins in Soweto, where she lived until her death on April 2 at 81.

Thousands of mourners have packed the 40,000-seat Orlando Stadium in Soweto to bid farewell to the powerful figure who will be buried as a national hero, after lively debate over how she should be remembered.

Often called the "Mother of the Nation" and "Mama Winnie", Madikizela-Mandela fought to keep South Africa's anti-apartheid struggle in the international spotlight while her husband, Nelson Mandela, was imprisoned.

Condolences poured in from around the world in remembrance of one of the 20th century's most prominent political activists.

Civil rights leader Jesse Jackson, who was attending the funeral, said on Friday that Madikizela-Mandela was responsible for making the anti-apartheid movement "a global struggle".

"She never stopped fighting. She never stopped serving," he told reporters. "She never left the belly of the beast."

Many memorialising Madikizela-Mandela have recognised her as a political force in her own right.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called her an "international symbol of resistance" whose extraordinary life had an impact on millions of people around the world.

"In apartheid South Africa, the combination of patriarchy and racism together meant that black women confronted enormous obstacles from the cradle to the grave - making her own achievements all the more exceptional," he said at a memorial in New York on Friday, not mentioning Nelson Mandela at all.