Winnie Madikizela-Mandela South African anti-apartheid campaigner and former wife of the late President Nelson Mandela died on Monday aged 81.
Family spokesman Victor Dlamini said in a statement,that she passed away at the Netcare Milpark Hospital in Johannesburg, South Africa after a long illness, for which she had been in and out of hospital since the start of the year.
The South African Broadcasting Corporation said she was admitted to the hospital over the weekend complaining of the flu after she attended a church service on Friday. She had been treated for diabetes and underwent major surgeries as her health began failing over the last several years.
Winnie Mandela played a high-profile role in the struggle to end white-minority rule but her place in history was stained by controversy and accusations of violence.
Madikizela-Mandela commanded a natural constituency of her own among South Africa’s poor and dispossessed, and the post-apartheid leaders who followed Mr. Mandela could never ignore her appeal to a broad segment of society. In April 2016, the government of President Jacob G. Zuma gave Ms. Madikizela-Mandela one of the country’s highest honors: the Order of Luthuli, given, in part, for contributions to the struggle for democracy.
She was known as the “Mother of the Nation” because of her struggle against white-minority rule in South Africa.
She was married to Nelson Mandela for 38 years, including the 27 years he was imprisoned on an island near Cape Town.
The couple were divorced in 1996, two years after Nelson Mandela became South Africa’s first black President. They had two daughters together. Nelson Mandela died in 2013.
Nobel laureate Desmond Tutu described Winnie Mandela as “a defining symbol” of the struggle against oppression.
“She refused to be bowed by the imprisonment of her husband, the perpetual harassment of her family by security forces, detentions, bannings and banishment,” he said.
Ramaphosa praised Madikizela-Mandela as “an advocate for the dispossessed and the marginalized” and “a voice for the voiceless.”
“Even at the darkest moments of our struggle for liberation, Mam’ Winnie was an abiding symbol of the desire of our people to be free,” Ramaphosa said in a statement. “In the midst of repression, she was a voice of defiance and resistance. In the face of exploitation, she was a champion of justice and equality.”
In 1990 the world watched when Nelson Mandela finally walked out of prison — hand in hand with Winnie.
The following year, she was convicted of kidnapping and assault over the killing of Stompie Moeketsi, a 14-year-old boy.
In 1992, the Mandelas separated, and then divorced in 1996, after a legal wrangle that revealed she had had an affair with a young bodyguard.
Her father, Columbus, was a senior official in the so-called homeland of Transkei, according to South African History Online, an unofficial archive, which described her as the fourth of eight children. (Other accounts say her family was larger.) Her mother, Gertrude, was a teacher who died when Winnie was 8,