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Winnie Mandela dies aged 81 after illness

Winnie Mandela dies aged 81 after illness

Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, who was Nelson's second wife, died Monday morning at the age of 81 "after a long illness", family spokesman Victor Dlamini said in statement to the BBC.

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.

The couple divorced in 1996, two years after Mandela became president in South Africa's first all-race elections. I recall an interview I watched wherein Winnie spoke of how it was lonely at times to have to raise her fist in the air and shout amandla by herself. She remained a steadfast activist, and an independent thinker who never waived from her principles, and was always committed to the cause of our people.

"She succumbed peacefully in the early hours of Monday afternoon surrounded by her family and loved ones", Ms Madikizela-Mandela's family said in a statement.

Mrs Madikizela-Mandela was born in 1936 in the Eastern Cape - then known as Transkei.

In its final report, the TRC ruled that Madikizela-Mandela was "politically and morally accountable for the gross violations of human rights committed by the MUFC". The most serious of which, in 1991 when Madikizela-Mandela was convicted of kidnapping and assaulting a 14-year-old boy because he was suspected of being an informer.

Her death came as a shock.

Winnie Madikizela Mandela at Nelson Mandela's memorial service at the FNB Stadium in Johannesburg on 10 December 2013. When Madiba was released in 1999, she said that he could not be guarded by De Klerk's security.

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FILE - In this September 11, 1986 file photo, Winnie Mandela, left, wife of jailed African National Congress leader Nelson Mandela, is joined by Coretta Scott King, widow of American civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., in Soweto, South Africa. Her courageous defiance was deeply inspirational to me, and to generations of activists.

Leading the tributes, anti-apartheid campaigner and Nobel laureate Desmond Tutu described her as "a defining symbol" of the battle against oppression. "We are all mourning", Ramaphosa's said.

"Many off our people can not believe that she has departed".

But with husband and wife pouring their energies into the fight against apartheid, the relationship struggled before being torn apart after six years when Mandela was arrested and sentenced to life in prison.

Mandela, approaching 40 and the father of three, declared on their first date that he would marry her.

In December 1988, her bodyguards, known as the Mandela United Football Club, kidnapped four boys belonging to another anti-apartheid party.

"She sat silently, wearing an uncomfortable borrowed suit she hoped would make her look more sophisticated than her 23 years, as a slew of advice-seekers stopped to chat with her well-known date".

"We can't get exhausted when you have given us work to do‚" Ramaphosa said, paying fulsome praise to her appearance.


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