Winnie Madikizela-Mandela: Anti-apartheid campaigner dies at 81
South African anti-apartheid campaigner and former
first lady Winnie Madikizela-Mandela has died aged 81.
She and her former husband Nelson Mandela, who were
both jailed, were a symbol of the country's anti-apartheid struggle for
However, in later years her reputation became tainted
legally and politically.
Crowds of mourners and political figures flocked to
her home in Soweto, in Johannesburg, after news of her death broke.
Family spokesman Victor Dlamini confirmed earlier on
Monday that Mrs Mandela "succumbed peacefully in the early hours of
Monday afternoon surrounded by her family and loved ones" following a
long illness, which had seen her go in and out of hospital since the
start of the year.
'Mother of the Nation'
Mrs Madikizela-Mandela was born in 1936 in the Eastern
Cape - then known as Transkei.
She was a trained social worker when she met her
future husband in the 1950s. They went on to have two daughters
They were married for a total of 38 years, although
for almost three decades of that time they were separated due to Mr
Mandela's long imprisonment.
It was Mrs Madikizela-Mandela who took his baton after
he was jailed for life, becoming an international symbol of resistance
to apartheid. She too was jailed for her role in the fight for justice
To her supporters, she became known affectionately as
"Mother of the Nation".
Who has paid tribute?
In a televised address President Cyril Ramaphosa -
whom Mrs Madikizela-Mandela praised earlier this year - called her as a
"voice of defiance" against white-minority rule.
Mrs Madikizela-Mandela outside court the day her husband was sentenced to life in prison
"In the face of exploitation, she was a champion of
justice and equality," he said on Monday.
"She as an abiding symbol of the desire of our people
to be free".
Retired archbishop and Nobel laureate Desmond Tutu
said she was a "defining symbol of the struggle against apartheid".
"Her courageous defiance was deeply inspirational to
me, and to generations of activists," he added.
Energy Minister Jeff Radebe, reading out a statement
on behalf of the family, paid tribute to "a colossus who strode the
Southern African political landscape".
"As the ANC we dip our revolutionary banner in salute
of this great icon of our liberation struggle," he said.
"The Mandela family are deeply grateful for the gift
of her life and even as our hearts break at her passing we urge all
those who loved her to celebrate this most remarkable South African
African National Congress (ANC) chairperson Gwede
Mantashe said: "With the departure of Mama Winnie, [we have lost] one of
the very few who are left of our stalwarts and icons. She was one of
those who would tell us exactly what is wrong and right, and we are
going to be missing that guidance."
South Africa's pride and joy - and my neighbour
I knew Winnie Madikizela-Mandela personally. We come
from the same neighbourhood in Soweto.
To many, she was the pride and joy of the nation, an
icon in her own right - never mind the fact she was Nelson Mandela's
Mrs Madikizela-Mandela was also the first black social
worker in the country. Her love and desire to help those in need was
always burning from deep inside.
But she was not nothing but sweet talk. She met the
brutality of racial segregation with fire. Each time the police came to
arrest her at her home in Orlando West, she held her own.
She never gave in. Not one inch - and sometimes, this
landed her in trouble. As anti-apartheid activist Mosioua Lekota noted
in her defence: "Those who did nothing under apartheid never made
She will be remembered for her fight against an
inhumane system, rather than for the mistakes she made in that fight.
Why was she controversial?
However, Mrs Madikizela-Mandela found herself mired in
scandal for decades.
She was accused of conducting a virtual reign of
terror in parts of Soweto by other members of the ANC in the late 1980s,
and heard backing the practice of "necklacing" - putting burning tyres
around suspected informants' necks.
She was also found guilty of kidnapping and sentenced
to six years' imprisonment for her involvement in the death of
14-year-old township militant Stompie Seipei. She always denied the
allegation, and the sentence was reduced to a fine.
Mrs Madikizela-Mandela (pictured in 1988) became a symbol for the anti-apartheid movement in her own right
Mr Mandela, who stood by her throughout the
accusations, was finally released from prison in February 1990.
But two years later, their marriage crumbled. The
couple divorced in 1996, but she kept his surname and maintained ties
She stayed involved in politics, but was again
embroiled in controversy when she was convicted of fraud in 2003.
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