Nelson Mandela's ex-wife Winnie Mandela dies

02 Apr 2018, 20:37

NTV Online
Photo: Collected

Nelson Mandela's ex-wife Winnie Madikizela-Mandela has died aged 81.

Winnie, who was married to Nelson when he was imprisoned on Robben Island, died on Monday, her personal assistant Zodwa Zwane said, reports the Mirror.

Zwane gave no further details on the South African anti-apartheid campaigner's death, but said a statement would be released later.

The news comes less than three months after Winnie was rushed to hospital in Johannesburg, South Africa, with a kidney infection.

In a statement at the time, her family described the symptoms she had suffered, and stressed she was expected to make a full recovery.

The statement said: ‘Prior to going to the clinic she was uncomfortable and complaining of loss of apetite and that one of her legs was painful.

‘Upon admission it was discovered that she had an infection and that it had affected her kidneys.’

It added: ‘She is expected to make a full recovery and should spend approximately a week in hospital .

‘She is constantly surrounded by family and is in high spirits.’

Winnie, a member of the ANC's National Executive Committee, had to be admitted to hospital in October last year for a procedure on her knee.

She was married to former South African President Nelson for 38 years, including the 27 years he served in jail.

During his lengthy incarceration, Winnie campaigned tirelessly for his release and for the rights of black South Africans, suffering years of detention, banishment and arrest by the white authorities.

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.

For husband and wife, it was a crowning moment that led four years later to the end of centuries of white domination when Mandela became South Africa's first black president.

But for Winnie, the end of apartheid marked the start of a string of legal and political troubles that, accompanied by tales of her glamorous living, kept her in the spotlight for all the wrong reasons.

As evidence emerged in the dying years of apartheid of the brutality of her Soweto enforcers, the ‘Mandela United Football Club’ (MUFC), her soubriquet switched from 'Mother of the Nation' to 'Mugger'.

Blamed for the killing of activist Stompie Seipei, who was found near her Soweto home with his throat cut, she was convicted in 1991 of kidnapping and assaulting the 14-year-old because he was suspected of being an informer.

Her six-year jail term was reduced on appeal to a fine. She and Mandela separated in 1992 - two years before he became South Africa's President - and her reputation slipped further when he sacked her from his cabinet in 1995 after allegations of corruption.

The couple divorced a year later, after which she adopted the surname Madikizela-Mandela. But despite the divorce, and Nelson's second marriage in 1998, Winnie maintained close ties to her former husband.