On Monday, April 2 it was announced that anti-apartheid activist and leader Winnie Mandela passed away at the age of 81.
Mandela, an ex-wife of South African patriarch Nelson Mandela, played a key role in ending white-minority rule in South Africa. Though her time in the spotlight was not without controversy as she was known to use any means she felt necessary to further the cause.
Her Xhosa name is Nomzamo (“She who tries”). Winnie was born in the village of Embongweni, Bizana, Pondoland, in South Africa’s Eastern Cape. She was born the fourth out of eight children, which included seven sisters and a brother.
She met a young attorney named Nelson Mandela when she was 22-years-old. They would have two children together.
Winnie suffered mightily under apartheid rule, and her activities, deemed subversive by the government, led to being tortured, under constant surveillance and placed in solitary confinement for more than a year.
South African activist and politician Winnie Madikizela-Mandela has died at the age of 81.
She was no mere talking head. She was active in ways that would make most activists shudder. To put it shortly, she was about that life.
In a statement, a family spokesman said that she died after a “long illness for which she had been in and out of the hospital since the start of the year.
“She succumbed peacefully in the early hours of Monday afternoon surrounded by her family and loved ones.”
Winnie was incarcerated several times for her actions and was the primary campaigner for the release of Nelson Mandela when he was imprisoned for 27 years.
But her marriage to him fell apart in the years after he was released and they divorced in 1996, nearly four decades after they were married.