South African icon and anti-apartheid fighter Winnie Madikizela-Mandela passed away in Johannesburg on Monday. She was 81.
According to a spokesman for her family, Mrs. Mandela “died after a long illness, for which she had been in and out of the hospital since the start of the year.” The statement from Victor Dlamini continued, “She succumbed peacefully in the early hours of Monday afternoon surrounded by her family and loved ones.”
“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 woman,” Dlamini said.
While many know about the struggles of her former husband, Nelson Mandela, who spent 27 years in prison for his anti-apartheid fight, Mrs. Mandela also suffered greatly for the cause.
Mrs. Mandela was often a target of the government and was arrested, beaten, tortured, and sent into banishment in 1977 because of her commitment to equality for South Africa’s Black citizens.
Though Mrs. Mandela was a stalwart figure in the anti-apartheid movement, she was plagued by scandals later in life that threatened to tarnish her reputation. Still, she is being remembered as “the mother of South Africa” and a dedicated freedom fighter.
Born in 1936 in the village of eMbongwen, which is located in South Africa’s Eastern Cape, Mrs. Mandela’s Xhosa name is Nomzamo, which means “one who tries.” Her commitment to her country’s most vulnerable people began early and continued throughout her life. Mrs. Mandela studied social work in college, before meeting and marrying Nelson Mandela when she was just 22.
Winnie Mandela leaves behind two daughters, Zindziswa and Zenani Mandela, and a legacy that will endure forever.