Winnie Madikizela Mandela has died at the age of 81. She was an anti-apartheid activist and was married to Nelson Mandela for 38 years, most of which he was imprisoned. The cause of death is yet to be confirmed; however, TMZ reports that Winnie Mandela has been ill for some time.
The publication states that she was taken to hospital for a kidney infection. However, it is not clear at this point if her death was from kidney disease.
Winnie Mandela was the first black first lady of South Africa and was affectionally known as the “Mother of the Nation” among her supporters.
Nelson Mandela and Winnie had already separated when he became president; however, they did not divorce until two years later in 1996. Mandela sacked her from the cabinet position for corruption a year before their divorce.
They remained close friends even when the late anti-apartheid revolutionary remarried.
During Nelson Mandela’s imprisonment, Winnie became a political icon in South Africa. While admired by her supporters, she became a controversial figure due to a report by the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission that alleged numerous crimes, including kidnapping and murder.
According to the Guardian, a statement was released about Winnie’s death.
“She died after a long illness, for which she had been in and out of the hospital since the start of the year,” Victor Dlamini said in a statement. “She succumbed peacefully in the early hours of Monday afternoon surrounded by her family and loved ones.”
The 81-year-old was admitted to a hospital in Johannesburg earlier this year after suffering from leg pain and a loss of appetite.
Madikizela Mandela had also been to the hospital on numerous occasions and was reportedly very ill leading up to her death.
In October 2017, Winnie had minor surgery on her knee but was expected to recover.
While the cause of death is not specified, she was hospitalized for kidney infection in January but was expected to make a full recovery.
While Nelson Mandela was known for his ability to forgive, Winnie took a hard stance and was accused of numerous crimes during the revolution.
During Mandela’s incarceration, Winnie fought tirelessly to get him released and had multiple run-ins with the law at the time.
After apartheid, Madikizela-Mandela’s legal troubles began. Reports emerged about the brutality of her enforcers during the revolution, and she was blamed for the murder of activist Stompie Seipei. Her six-year jail sentence was reduced to a fine after an appeal.
Winnie Madikizela Mandela is survived by her two children, Zenani and Zindziwi Mandela.