Nelson Mandela's wife Winnie Mandela passes away at 81

Economic Freedom Fighters supporters outside the home of lat struggle stalwart Winnie Madikizela Mandela on Tuesday 3 April 2018. Credit EWN

Economic Freedom Fighters supporters outside the home of lat struggle stalwart Winnie Madikizela Mandela on Tuesday 3 April 2018. Credit EWN

Her uncompromising methods and refusal to forgive contrasted sharply with the reconciliation espoused by her husband Nelson Mandela as he worked to forge a stable, pluralistic democracy from the racial division and oppression of apartheid. Though she may not have been imprisoned for 27 years or become president of the ANC, without her contribution and continued work during the apartheid struggle, this country would not have achieved what it eventually did in 1994. "May God let her rest in peace". She was sentenced to six years for kidnapping, but South Africa's highest appeals court reduced her punishment to fines and a suspended one-year term.

Madikizela-Mandela had been in and out of hospital since the start of the year, according to her family.

And although many South Africans called her the Mother Of The Nation, she would become engulfed in criminal convictions and scandals. She was also sent to jail for many years and tortured and she faces constant security threats. The couple divorced in 1996, but she kept his surname and maintained ties with him.

"Winnie was a voice of defiance and resistance".

Only after pleading from anguished TRC chairman Archbishop Desmond Tutu did she admit grudgingly that "things went horribly wrong".

She had back surgery a year ago. We had to wait for MK to return to SA, so we sent the Transkei defence force to guard him.

Born on September 26, 1936, in Bizana, Eastern Cape province, Madikizela-Mandela became politicised at an early age in her job as a hospital social worker.

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

Strikingly attractive and with a steely air - her given name, Nomzamo, means "one who strives" - the 22-year-old Winnie caught the eye of Mandela at a Soweto bus-stop in 1957, starting a whirlwind romance that led to their marriage a year later.

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"Mrs. Madikizela-Mandela was one of the greatest icons of the struggle against apartheid", the statement said.

Left with two young daughters, Ms Madikizela-Mandela was persecuted by police and banished to a remote town where neighbours were forbidden to speak with her.

"I was married to the ANC".

Congress of the People leader Mosiuoa Lekota said: "I received with shock and great sadness the news of Winnie Madikizela's passing".

So she stands on very unique ground here in South Africa. Unfortunately, we can never really know the truth.

But he added: "Winnie gave me cause for hope".

Ms Madikizela-Mandela always was aware of the danger of being overshadowed by her husband's all-encompassing personality, and she vowed not to lose herself. And also she had charges of fraud and theft brought against her in the early 2000s.

Mandela, approaching 40 and the father of three, declared on their first date that he would marry her.

In recent years, she often clashed with authorities who sought to undermine her reputation as an activist "against the white-minority regime".

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