South African anti-apartheid campaigner and former first lady Winnie Madikizela-Mandela has died aged 81.
The Mandela family issued a statement on Monday, stating, “It is with profound sadness that we inform the public that Mrs Winnie Madikizela-Mandela passed away at the Netcare Milpark Hospital, Johannesburg, South Africa on Monday 2 April 2018.
“She died after a long illness, for which she had been in and out of the hospital since the start of the year. She succumbed peacefully in the early hours of Monday afternoon surrounded by her family and loved ones.”
Born in Bizana in the Eastern Cape in 1936‚ she moved to Johannesburg to study social work after matriculating.
She met lawyer and anti-apartheid activist Nelson Mandela in 1957 and they were married a year later. They had two children together.
However‚ her marriage life with Mandela was short-lived‚ as he was arrested in 1963 and sentenced to life imprisonment for treason. Mandela was eventually released in 1990 after spending 27 years behind bars.
The couple divorced in 1996, after 38 years of marriage.
During Mandela’s time in prison‚ Winnie Madikizela-Mandela was not spared the reach of the apartheid forces. She was placed under house arrest and at one time banished to Brandfort‚ a town in the Free State.
To her supporters, she became known affectionately as “Mother of the Nation”.
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 wife.