Winnie Madikizela-Mandela passes away, aged 81

South African's former first lady famously fought for the rights of black South Africans and against apartheid 

Winnie Mandela
Winnie Mandela

South African anti-apartheid campaigner Winnie Mandela has died aged 81, her personal assistant says.

Winnie Madikizela Mandela was the former wife of South Africa's first black president, Nelson Mandela.

Her PA‚ Zodwa Zwane‚ confirmed the struggle veteran’s death on Monday afternoon.

“It is with profound sadness that we inform the public that Winnie Madikizela-Mandela passed away at the Netcare Milpark Hospital‚ Johannesburg‚ South Africa on Monday April 2‚ 2018,” she said.

“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,” the family said in a statement today.

The family will release details of the memorial and funeral services once these have been finalised.

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.

Mandela was arrested in 1963 and sentenced to life imprisonment for treason, and was later released in 1990. The couple divorced in 1996‚ 37 years after their marriage.

During Mandela’s time in prison‚ Madikizela-Mandela was placed under house arrest and at one time banished to Brandfort‚ a town in the Free State. She campaigned for Mandela’s release and the rights of black South Africans, undergoing arrest and banishment. White minority rule ended in 1994.

In 1969‚ Madikizela-Mandela became one of the first detainees under Section 6 of the notorious Terrorism Act of 1967. She was detained for 18 months in solitary confinement in a condemned cell at Pretoria Central Prison before being charged under the Suppression of Communism Act of 1950.

After the first democratic election in 1994‚ Madikizela-Mandela became an MP and was appointed deputy minister of arts and culture. She was fired by Mandela after an unauthorised trip to Ghana.

She had been an MP ever since‚ despite limited appearances in Parliament in the past few years.

In 2016‚ she was conferred an Order of Luthuli in Silver during the National Orders Awards ceremony for her excellent contribution to the fight for the liberation of the people of South Africa.

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