The ex-wife of the late Nelson Mandela of South Africa, Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, is dead.
In a statement released on Monday by her family, she “died after a long illness, for which she had been in and out of hospital since the start of the year. She succumbed peacefully in the early hours of Monday afternoon surrounded by her family and loved ones.”
The statement remembered her as “one of the greatest icons of the struggle against apartheid. She fought valiantly against the apartheid state and sacrificed her life for the freedom of the country.”
Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu, another icon of the anti-apartheid movement, released a statement on Monday lauding Madikizela-Mandela and wishing that she might “rest in peace and rise in glory.”
“She refused to be bowed by the imprisonment of her husband, the perpetual harassment of her family by security forces, detentions, bannings and banishment. Her courageous defiance was deeply inspirational to me, and to generations of activists,” Tutu said in the statement.
To her supporters, Madikizela-Mandela was known as “the Mother of the Nation,” and her legacy will endure for many years in spite of criminal convictions on charges ranging from fraud to kidnapping and assault after the end of white rule in South Africa.
She became a member of South Africa’s parliament but the scandals saw her sharply criticised by the African National Congress, which leads the country and which her late ex-husband led for years after his release from prison.
Meanwhile, President Muhammadu Buhari on Monday described Madikizela-Mandela’s death as a huge loss to Africa.
He said with her death, the continent had lost a courageous woman.
The President stated this in a statement made available to journalists by his Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu.
He noted that the deceased “was a woman of uncommon determination, steadfastness and perseverance who held aloft the torch of the struggle against institutionalised discrimination even while her ex-husband, the late Madiba, President Nelson Mandela, was incarcerated.”
Buhari, on behalf of the government and Nigerians, commiserated with the family of the deceased as well as the government and people of South Africa.
He urged them to be consoled by the knowledge that the late Winnie Mandela’s contributions to ending apartheid would not be forgotten.
According to him, she remained “a pride not only to the African woman, but indeed all Africans.”
She was a political force and contentious figure in her own right — an iconic figure in the fight to end the racist apartheid system imposed on South Africa under white rule, CBS reports.
Madikizela-Mandela was married to Nelson Mandela in 1958 but divorced him in 1996. Mandela was imprisoned throughout most of their marriage at the Robben Island, and Madikizela-Mandela’s own activism against the apartheid regime led to her being imprisoned for months and years under house arrest.