BBC News is reporting that Winnie Mandela, the ex-wife of former South African President Nelson Mandela and an icon in the fight against apartheid in her own right, has died at the age of 81.
Her publicist‚ Zodwa Zwane‚ confirmed the death on Monday afternoon local time and said the family would be issuing a statement later in the day, according to Herald Live.
Nomzamo Winifred Madikizela-Mandela‚ born in Bizana in the Eastern Cape in 1936‚ moved to Johannesburg to study social work after graduating. She met lawyer and anti-apartheid activist Nelson Mandela in 1957 and they were married a year later. They had two children together.
Her marriage to Mandela was interrupted six years later‚ as he was arrested in 1963 and sentenced to life imprisonment for treason. Mandela was eventually released in 1990.
During Mandela’s time in prison‚ Winnie Mandela’s anti-apartheid fight continued on. She was placed under house arrest and at one time banished to Brandfort‚ a town in the Free State.
In 1969‚ she 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.
In 1991‚ she was convicted of kidnapping and being an accessory to assault of Stompie Seipei‚ a young activist who was killed by a member of her bodyguards‚ the Mandela United Football Club. Madikizela-Mandela’s bodyguards were alleged to have abducted Seipei‚ 14‚ in 1989‚ along with three other youths‚ from the home of Methodist minister Paul Verryn.
Her six-year jail sentence was reduced to a fine and a two-year suspended sentence on appeal.
Her marriage to Mandela began to unravel a few years after his release. A letter she purportedly wrote to her young lover found its way into the newspapers. The couple divorced in 1996‚ 37 years after their marriage.
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 unauthorized 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.