Nelson Mandela's ex-wife Winnie dead

UPDATE 2-Winnie Mandela, tainted anti-apartheid figurehead, dies at 81

A cross section of women activists in Enugu have expressed shock over the demise of Winnie Mandela, the South African anti-apartheid activist and former wife of late President Nelson Mandela.

They were married for 38 years but were separated for nearly three decades of that time due to Mandela's imprisonment.

After their separation she kept his surname and they maintained ties, leading to critics accusing her of attempting to use his name for political mileage.

She would also remain an encouraging figure in the fight against patriarchy and male chauvinism in and outside politics.

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.

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

He was jailed for life in 1964 and only released in 1990. In 2003, she was sentenced to 4 years in prison on dozens of counts of theft and bank fraud. She organized both women and youth who conducted an unrelenting struggle against the wicked system of legalized racism.

Cooperative Governance Minister Zweli Mkhize hailed Madikizela Mandela as the mother of the nation and true freedom fighter.

In 1976, the year of the Soweto riots, she was banished from the township to a remote rural area. She had her house burnt down and there is reasonable suspicion that South African forces were behind the arson.

"She had a good sense of humour, but sometimes her boldness would annoy Madiba".

"The struggle could never have been what it became without the undying zeal and passion of Mam' Winnie both for the country and our people".

She was a complex person who was able to persevere through turbulent times.

More news: MN Joins California Suit Against Census Citizenship Question

Winnie Madikizela Mandela with Methil Renuka, Editor, FORBES AFRICA and FORBES WOMAN AFRICA (Photo supplied). Many leaders within the ANC had been forced into exile for fear of losing their lives, murdered or imprisoned alongside her husband. In April 1992, Mandela announced that he and his wife were separating.

She appealed and was found guilty of being an accessory in the assault, and the sentence was reduced to a fine and a suspended prison term.

In 1957, she met Nelson Mandela, a rising lawyer and anti-apartheid activist 18 years her senior, and they married a year later following his divorce from his first wife.

Her split from Mr Mandela did little to harm her political standing among poor, black South Africans who saw her as their voice at a time when the ANC had adopted pro-business policies.

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

So many families in Soweto have their own story of, as they say, "Mama Winnie" helping with bills that couldn't be paid, attending funerals, helping to pay for funerals, visiting people who were sick, remembering grandmothers and great-aunts and others who were active during the liberation struggle. All but one was quashed, but one of those convictions still stood.

As the years passed and Madikizela-Mandela's public standing plummeted, her relationship with the party she loved soured.

Final years Ms Madikizela-Mandela described being there for the final moments of her ex-husband's life in 2013, and appeared in a prominent position at memorial services in his honour.

And when that happened, the words "till death do us part" came to Winnie's mind, she said, as she harked back to that day in June 1958 when she married Mandela.

The same month she was honoured with an honorary degree from Makerere University in Uganda for her anti-apartheid campaigning.

The nature of her illness was not disclosed.

Her death, at the Netcare Milpark Hospital, was announced by her spokesman, Victor Dlamini. She died peacefully in the hospital after a long illness, according to her family.

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