Winnie Mandela, anti-apartheid campaigner and the ex-wife of South Africa’s most famous and first black leader, Nelson Mandela, has died at 81.
South African Herald newspaper quotes her personal assistant, Zodwa Zwane, as confirming her passing Monday afternoon.
“It is with profound sadness that we inform the public that Mrs. Winnie Madikizela-Mandela passed away at the Netcare Milpark Hospital‚ Johannesburg‚ South Africa, on Monday April 2‚ 2018,” the assistant said.
Mrs. Mandela had been in and out of hospital since the beginning of the year following a long illness.
She died peacefully surrounded by friends and loved ones, a family statement said.
Details of her funeral will be released soon, the family statement added.
Born Winifred Madikizela in 1936 in Eastern Cape, she moved to Johannesburg as a social worker where she met Mr. Mandela in 1957. They got married a year later. The couple had two children.
Mr. Mandela was arrested and imprisoned for treason six years after they married. He was not released until 1990.
She also suffered house arrest and banishment in the hands of the apartheid government. She was also placed in solitary confinement for 18 months under the notorious Terrorism Act of 1967.
But soon after the release of her husband, controversy after another trailed Mrs. Mandela.
In 1991, she was convicted for kidnapping and being an accessory to assault in the murder of a young activist, ‘Stompie’ Seipei.
She was sentenced to six years imprisonment. But her jail term was later reduced to a fine and two-year suspended sentence after an appeal.
Later, a letter she allegedly wrote to her young lover found its way into the newspapers.
“The fact that I haven’t been speaking to Tata (Nelson Mandela) for five months now over you is no longer your concern. I keep telling you the situation is deteriorating at home. You are not bothered because you are satisfying yourself every night with a woman‚” Mrs. Mandela reportedly wrote.
The couple divorced in 1996‚ 37 years after their marriage.
After the first democratic election in 1994‚ Mrs. Mandela became a Member of Parliament and was appointed deputy minister of arts and culture.
She was sacked by Mr. Mandela after an unauthorised trip to Ghana.
She remained a member of parliament ever since‚ despite limited appearances in parliament in last few years.