Tributes have been pouring in from all over the world as news broke earlier today Easter Monday that South African anti-apartheid activist Winnie Madikizela-Mandela died on at the age of 81.
The former wife of Nelson Mandela is reported to have passed away peacefully following a long illness. Earlier this year she was hospitalised for a kidney ailment and exhaustion.
In a statement, Victor Dlamini who is a family spokesperson said 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. She fought valiantly against the apartheid state and sacrificed her life for the freedom of the country. She kept the memory of her imprisoned husband Nelson Mandela alive during his years on Robben Island and helped give the struggle for justice in South Africa one its most recognisable faces,” the statement said.
Some tributes to the celebrated heroine came from retired South African archbishop and Nobel laureate Desmond Tutu who hailed the late Winnie Mandela as ‘a defining symbol of the struggle against apartheid’.
“She refused to be bowed by the imprisonment of her husband, the perpetual harassment of her family by security forces, detentions, bannings and banishment,” he said. “Her courageous defiance was deeply inspirational to me, and to generations of activists.”
South African President Cyril Ramaphosa also paid tribute to Winnie Mandela saying; “she was the ‘voice of defiance and resistance’ against white-minority rule. In the face of exploitation, she was a champion of justice and equality,’ he said in a televised address, adding that she ‘was an abiding symbol of the desire of our people to be free”
THE LIFE AND TIMES OF WINNIE MANDELA
1936: Born on September 26 as Nomzamo Winifred Zanyiwe Madikizela in the Eastern Cape.
1955: Becomes the country’s first black social worker in a hospital in Johannesburg’s Soweto township.
1958: Marries Nelson Mandela, a lawyer and leading member of the anti-apartheid African National Congress (ANC).
1962: Mandela is jailed. Over the next years, Madikizela-Mandela emerges as an influential ANC figure, enduring harassment and stints in prison.
1986: In her most controversial speech, she endorses the practice of “necklacing” or burning people by setting alight a tyre around their necks.
1990: Nelson Mandela is freed after 27 years in prison.
1991: Madikizela-Mandela is found guilty and fined for the kidnapping of four Soweto youths and the killing of one by her team of bodyguards.
1992: She is forced out of all executive positions in the ANC after allegations of corruption and mismanagement.
1994: Appointed deputy minister of arts, culture, science and technology in Mandela’s unity government. The next year, she is sacked for insubordination but keeps her position as member of parliament and head of the powerful Women’s League.
1996: Is divorced from Mandela, after four years of separation.
1998: The Truth and Reconciliation Commission implicates her in torture, murder and abduction during the struggle against apartheid.
2003-2004: Convicted of fraud, with a suspended jail sentence.
2009: Manages to secure only the fifth place on the ANC’s electoral list for the 2009 general election.
2013: Death of Nelson Mandela
April 2, 2018: Death of Winnie Mandela