Winnie Madikizela-Mandela Has Died at 81

Winnie Madikizela-Mandela Has Died at 81

Femi Fani-Kayode, former Aviation Minister, on Monday reacted to the death of Winnie Mandela, wife of late anti-apartheid crusader, Nelson Mandela. "She succumbed peacefully in the early hours of Monday afternoon surrounded by her family and loved ones. according to reports from various media houses in South Africa and overseas".

Famously pictured hand-in-hand as Nelson Mandela walked free from prison after 27 years, the couple was a symbol of the anti-apartheid struggle for almost three decades before her reputation became tainted legally and politically, the BBC reported.

American civil rights activist Jesse Louis Jackson Sr. said: "In the darkest hours of the struggle to free South Africa, with Nelson Mandela in prison, the face of hope and courage was #Winnie Mandela". The couple divorced a year later, after which she adopted the surname Madikizela-Mandela. The apartheid regime tried to break her spirit, instead, it made her stronger, and she kept Mandela relevant for the 27 years that he was incarcerated by South Africa's white government. Winnie Mandela was banned because of her support for these actions.

Additional reporting from Newsy affiliate CNN.

Still harassed by police, Ms Madikizela-Mandela gathered a group of young men known as the Mandela United Football Club, who lived on her property. However, her controversial statements promoted violence and she was accused in a murder case and a convict in bank fraud case.

Her political activism was marred by a kidnapping and assault conviction in 1991, for which she was fined.

"She refused to be bowed by the imprisonment of her husband, the perpetual harassment of her family by security forces, detentions, bannings and banishment", said Archbishop Desmond Tutu in a statement.

"The Mandela family are deeply grateful for the gift of her life and even as our hearts break at her passing we urge all those who loved her to celebrate this most remarkable South African woman".

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She faced these allegations again during the 1997 hearings before the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, a panel that investigated apartheid-era crimes.

Ms Madikizela-Mandela always was aware of the danger of being submerged in the shadow of her husband's all-encompassing personality.

As the mother of two of Mr Mandela's children, Ms Madikizela-Mandela and her ex-husband appeared to rebuild a friendship in his final years, before his 2013 death.

At the ANC conference in 2007, she was elected to the party's top decision-making body, the National Executive Committee, and in the 2009 general election, she was placed fifth on the list of ANC MPs nominated for parliament, in a clear sign that then-President Jacob Zuma saw her as an electoral asset.

It said Madikizela-Mandela would remain an embodiment of its values.

It was not unusual to see him at public events with her on one side and his third wife, Graca Machel, on the other.

She remained steadfast and unbowed throughout, emerging to punch the air triumphantly in the clenched-fist salute of black power as she walked hand-in-hand with Mandela out of Cape Town's Victor Vester prison on February 11, 1990.

"And he shed tears to say that "we have chose to separate".

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