"There were times when people could not afford a funeral and she would assist", said neighbour Gloria Searole, 31, a service consultant who went to catch a glimpse of the procession along with her daughter.
The coffin draped with the multi-coloured South African flag was placed in the middle of the 37,500-seat stadium in front of a stage, decked in white and yellow flowers.
Madikizela-Mandela died this month in a Johannesburg hospital after a long illness.
He says the detention, torture and years of banishment that Madikizela-Mandela endured "emboldened" her as a political activist, but also inflicted "deep wounds" that never healed and went largely ignored by many peers. Though she fought fiercely for democracy, Madikizela-Mandela floundered in a political career after the first free elections in 1994.
ANC supporters made up most of the crowd at the packed Orlando Stadium, but a significant number of EFF supporters attended the funeral.
Namibian President Hage Geingob praised the late Mother of the Nation for her determination and for never surrendering while being persecuted by the enemy.
The ceremony concluded 10 days of national mourning during which time hundreds of thousands of South Africans have paid tribute to the "Mother of the Nation" at her Soweto home and elsewhere.
Civil rights chief Jesse Jackson, who attended the funeral, mentioned Friday that Madikizela-Mandela was accountable for making the anti-apartheid motion "a worldwide wrestle".
The Assistant Secretary of the Nigeria Union in South Africa, Mr Collins Mgbo, said that Winnie would be remembered for the love she showed to Nigerians residing in South Africa.
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Winnie Mandela refused to follow many other struggle-era politicians who moved from townships like Soweto to formerly white-only suburbs after the end of apartheid. When Ms Madikizela-Mandela returned from exile she became involved with a group of young men known as the Mandela United Football Club, who were widely blamed for violence in Soweto.
After the formal service, Winnie Mandela's body will be buried 40km (25 miles) north of Soweto, at a privately run graveyard in Johannesburg's upmarket Fourways suburb where two of her great-grandchildren are also buried.
He told the Mandela family to find fortitude in the hope that she lived a good life, assuring the thoughts and prayers of Nigerians for the family.
"I appreciate many things about her".
She appealed and was found guilty of being an accessory, and the sentence was reduced to a fine and a suspended prison term.
The United Nations staged a special memorial sitting at its NY headquarters on Friday to mark her passing.
"On behalf of the Nigerian community in South Africa, we reach out to Winnie Mandela's family".
Former president Jacob Zuma and Thabo Mbeki were booed when programme director Defence Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula acknowledged their presence, seemingly in reaction to Mbeki's interview last week where he said Madikizela-Mandela shouldn't be credited as an individual for her role in the struggle for freedom.
Most of the 38-year long marriage was spent living apart with Winnie left alone to raise their children.
On Saturday, a 21-gun salute will be fired at her final resting place.