SOWETO

South Africa will lay to rest anti-apartheid icon and Nelson Mandela's former wife Winnie Mandela with full state honours at a stadium funeral in Soweto on Saturday.

The ceremony will conclude 10 days of national mourning during which time thousands of South Africans have paid tribute to the 'Mother of the Nation' at her Soweto home and elsewhere.

Winnie Mandela, who died in Johannesburg aged 81 on April 2 after a long illness, has been celebrated for helping keep Nelson Mandela's dream of a non-racial South Africa alive while he was behind bars for 27 years.

On the eve of the funeral, Winnie Mandela's body was transferred from a funeral parlour to lie in state at her Soweto home.

Hundreds of people lined the township's streets as a black hearse carrying her body slowly drove to her house led by uniformed men bearing the flag of Mandela's African National Congress (ANC).

The casket was also draped with an ANC flag.

Gloria Mabasa, 40, had a portrait of Winnie Mandela stamped on one cheek and wore a headscarf with the ANC's signature green, gold and black colours as she paid her last respects.

"In a way we feel orphaned but their legacy lives on," said the gym worker who had taken time off to visit Winnie Mandela's home.

A mourner waits for the arrival of the coffin of Winnie Mandela at her house in Soweto in Johannesburg on April 13, 2018. PHOTO | AFP

South Africa's new President Cyril Ramaphosa, who took office two months ago, will lead the mourners at a pre-burial service to be held in Soweto's 37,000-capacity Orlando stadium.

American civil rights activist Jesse Jackson is expected to attend, as are the presidents of Namibia and the Republic of Congo.

"She is truly the mother of South Africa," Jackson told journalists on Friday.

The motorcade transporting the coffin of Winnie Madikizela-Mandela drives through Soweto after leaving her home towards Orlando Stadium for a funeral ceremony on April 14, 2018. PHOTO | AFP

The township of Soweto is hugely symbolic in South Africa as it became a cauldron of black resistance against white minority rule which ended with elections in 1994.

Winnie Mandela's husband became the first black president of democratic South Africa, but she refused to follow many other struggle-era politicians who moved from townships like Soweto to formerly white-only suburbs after the end of apartheid.

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