Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, the South African anti-apartheid campaigner and former wife of the late President Nelson Mandela, has died at age 81. She died on Monday 2nd of April 2018, according to a report given by the family.
The family also 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 beginning of the year.
“Mrs. Madikizela-Mandela was one of the greatest icons of the struggle against apartheid,” the statement said. “She fought valiantly against the apartheid state and sacrificed her life for the freedom of the country.”
Her death came as a shock. “None of us had predicted this,” a family spokesman said.
Madikizela-Mandela was known as the “Mother of the Nation” because of her struggle against white-minority rule in South Africa.
Winnie was married to Nelson Mandela for 38 years which includes the 27 years he was imprisoned. “She kept the memory of her imprisoned husband Nelson Mandela alive during his years on Robben Island and helped give the struggle for justice in South Africa one of its most recognizable faces,” the statement also said.
The couple were divorced in 1996, two years after Nelson Mandela became South Africa’s first black President. They had two daughters together.
A longtime stalwart of the ruling African National Congress, or ANC, political party, Madikizela-Mandela was a member of South Africa’s parliament at the time of her death.
Born in 1936 in what is now known as the Eastern Cape Province, Nomzamo Winifred Madikizela was the daughter of a history teacher.
As a young social worker, she married Nelson Mandela in 1958 at age 22, and stood by him in the years following his 1964 conviction and life imprisonment sentence for sabotage and conspiracy to overthrow the government. Madikizela-Mandela led an international campaign calling for his release.
While Nelson Mandela was banned from reading newspapers, his wife was his link to the outside world. Winnie told him of the changes taking place in his homeland and became his often outspoken and controversial public voice.
Nelson Mandela was finally freed in 1990. His defiance of white-minority rule and his long incarceration for fighting against state-sanctioned segregation focused world attention on South Africa’s apartheid system, making him the symbol of the struggle to end the practice and bring racial equality to his country.
According to Cyril Ramphosa, the South African president, a memorial service will be held for her on the 11th of April and an “official national” funeral will be April 14.
May her soul rest in peace.