Nomzamo Winifred Madikizela-Mandela‚ a foremost anti-apartheid campaigner‚ has died at the age of 81.
Winnie Madikizela Mandela, the former wife of South Africa‘s first black president, Nelson Mandela, was famously pictured hand-in-hand as Mandela walked free from prison after 27 years.
The couple were a symbol of the anti-apartheid struggle for nearly three decades.
Family spokesman Victor Dlamini said in a statement: “She died after a long illness, for which she had been in and out of hospital since the start of the year.
“She succumbed peacefully in the early hours of Monday afternoon surrounded by her family and loved ones.”
Mrs Mandela, born in 1936 in the Eastern Cape, was a trained social worker when she met her future husband in the 1950s and she took his baton after he was jailed for life in 1964, becoming an international symbol of resistance to apartheid and a rallying point for poor, black township residents who demanded their freedom.
Five years later, she too was jailed by the white minority government she fiercely fought against.
Madikizela-Mandela was later mired in legal and political controversy after she was heard backing the practice of “necklacing” – putting burning tyres around suspected informants’ necks, and later accusations of conducting a virtual reign of terror in parts of Soweto by other members of the African National Congress.
She was also found guilty of kidnapping and sentenced to six years’ imprisonment for her involvement in the death of 14-year-old township militant Stompie Seipei. The sentence was reduced to a fine as she denied the allegations.
Mr Mandela was finally released from prison in February 1990, but their marriage crumbled two years later, leading to their divorce in 1996.
She however kept his name and maintained ties with him until his death in 2013.