Freedom fighter Winnie Mandela dies at 81

April 5, 2018

Long-time South African anti-apartheid campaigner, ex-wife of Nelson Mandela and former first lady Winnie Madikizela-Mandela died on April 2, 2018, at the age of 81.

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 the hospital since the start of the year.

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 together.

Winnie and Nelson 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 Winnie 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 and equality.

To her supporters, she became known affectionately as “Mother of the Nation.”

Due to her political activities, Winnie was regularly detained by the National Party government. She was tortured, subjected to house arrest, kept under surveillance, held in solitary confinement for over a year and even banished to a remote town. She emerged as a leading opponent of apartheid during the later years of her husband’s imprisonment (August 1963 – February 1990).

For many of those years, she was exiled to the town of Brandfort in the Orange Free State and confined to the area, except for when she was allowed to visit her husband at Robben Island. Beginning in 1969, she spent eighteen months in solitary confinement at Pretoria Central Prison. It was at this time that Winnie Mandela became well known in the Western world. She organized local clinics, campaigned actively for equal rights and was promoted by the ANC as a symbol of their struggle against apartheid.

In 1985, Mrs. Mandela won the Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Award along with fellow activists Allan Boesak and Beyers Naudé for their human rights work in South Africa. The Award is given annually by the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights to an individual or group whose courageous activism is at the heart of the human rights movement and in the spirit of Robert F. Kennedy’s vision and legacy. She received a Candace Award for Distinguished Service from the National Coalition of 100 Black Women in 1988.

Read More About: ,