Home / Africa / Anti-apartheid activist Winnie Madikizela-Mandela dies

Anti-apartheid activist Winnie Madikizela-Mandela dies

JOHANNESBURG (AP) — Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, prominent anti-apartheid activist and the ex-wife of Nelson Mandela, died in a hospital on Monday after a long illness. She was 81.

“She succumbed peacefully in the early hours of Monday afternoon surrounded by her family and loved ones,” Madikizela-Mandela’s family said in a statement.

Madikizela-Mandela was married to Mandela from 1958 to 1996. Mandela, who died in 2013, was imprisoned throughout most of their marriage and Madikizela-Mandela’s own activism against White minority rule led to her being imprisoned for months and placed under house arrest for years.

“She kept the memory of her imprisoned husband Nelson Mandela alive during his years on Robben Island and helped give the struggle for justice in South Africa one of its most recognizable faces,” the family said.

However, Madikizela-Mandela’s political activism was marred by her conviction in 1991 for kidnapping and assault, for which she was fined. She faced these allegations again during the 1997 hearings before the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, a panel that investigated apartheid-era crimes.

As a parliamentarian after South Africa’s first all-race elections, she was convicted of fraud.

Still, Madikizela-Mandela remained a venerated figure in the ruling African National Congress, which has led South Africa since the end of apartheid in 1994.

She was a veteran of the anti-apartheid struggle who continued to tell the party “exactly what is wrong and what is right at any time,” said senior ANC leader Gwede Mantashe.

The ANC, which was the main movement against apartheid, had lost popularity in recent years in part because of scandals linked to former president Jacob Zuma, who resigned in February.

Nobel laureate and former archbishop Desmond Tutu, a periodic critic of the ruling party over the years, described Madikizela-Mandela as “a defining symbol” of the fight against apartheid.

In this file photo dated Sunday, February 11, 1990, Nelson Mandela and wife Winnie, walk hand in hand, raising their clenched fists upon his release from Victor prison, Cape Town, 27 years in detention. (AP Photo)
“She refused to be bowed by the imprisonment of her husband, the perpetual harassment of her family by security forces, detentions, bannings and banishment,” Tutu said. “Her courageous defiance was deeply inspirational to me, and to generations of activists.”

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

The family said it will release details of her memorial and funeral services when they are finalized.

Madikizela-Mandela always was aware of the danger of being submerged in the shadow of her husband’s all-encompassing personality.

Even before they were separated by Nelson Mandela’s long stay in prison, she had become politicized, being jailed for two weeks while pregnant for participating in a women’s protest against apartheid restrictions on Blacks.

The apartheid police later harassed her, sometimes dragging her from bed at night without giving her a chance to make arrangements for her daughters.

Madikizela-Mandela complained bitterly on a North American tour after she was forced to testify to South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission in 1997 that the commission never asked her about the treatment she suffered over 18 months in solitary confinement.

The Mandela marriage that survived decades of prison bars dissolved with a formal separation in 1992, two years after Nelson Mandela was released.

The couple divorced in 1996, two years after Mandela became president in South Africa’s first all-race elections, with Mandela accusing his wife of infidelity.

As the mother of two of Mandela’s children, Madikizela-Mandela and her ex-husband appeared to rebuild a friendship in his final years, before his 2013 death.

Check Also

Rumours of secessionists’ infiltration wary Dschang, Fongo Tongo, Mungo officials

Journal du Cameroun | Fear has gripped some administrative and security officials in some towns …


  1. There are many Winnie`s around and it just needs some courage.
    The Winnie of Ambazonia, just needs that courage. The struggle,

  2. R. I. P.

  3. Rest in peace mama. We will never forget you!

  4. RIP mama
    You fought a great fight, you sacrificed your youth!
    You were calked wife of a terrorist, mother of terrorist by those who supported apartheid South Africa but history proved them wrong.
    Those supporting Anglophone apartheid in Cameroon will also end up on the wrong side of history.

    • This kana man na. fool. Sad enough you do not know the colonial history of Cameroon.

  5. Rest in Peace! I know you were a difficult Woman but you played a vital Rule in Madiba Tata Mandela’s life before and during his 27 years in prison. Unfortunately, Mandela could not stand up to your stubborn ways after he was freed! May your soul find internal rest!

  6. She actually did the heavy lifting, setting the stage for a return of South Africa to blacks. Unlike her husband, her flesh became weak somewhere along the line, and of course she took on a despotic attitude. It is inexcusable to order the murder of anyone under whatever pretext, and I’m afraid she was guilty of this. Her legacy is a mixed one!

    • @Firefighter,

      Behind every successful man is a supportive wife, isn’t it? Compare this lady and her burdens with our local First lady at Unity Palace. Would you rather have the “yes love” type or one who lifts her head sometimes? I often wonder if Chantal ever considers life outside of the presidency or anything close to what Mrs. Laurent Gbagbo is experiencing today.

      • I’m not comparing her with others, l’m looking at her legacy in its own right. When she fell out with Mandela, I remember doing some research on her and discovering, she had a group of men called Football Club. She routinely sent them out to torture people, until one day they did the unthinkable. The murdered a youngman whose name i’v forgotten by now and that was the beginning of her troubles. If you are a Daniel and you want to come to justice, you must do so with clean hands.

        • Becoming a Daniel????? Shame on you.

        • Where do you find, “Becoming a Daniel” in the sentences above?

        • Don’t know if I misread you but given the unfortunate aggression I have lived through from some quarters, nothing surprises me any more. Even my America has become a nightmare. I watch a woman at an information counter (hotel, airport?) seeking information of some kind…an ordinary woman with head covered by a black burqa….from nowhere, a heavyset man thrice her bulk emerges and pounds on her a number of times before guards come to the rescue. She was lucky to get off alive even if wounded.
          Not so lucky were ebullient youthful kids at a school who heard a fire alarm and ran straight into a rapid fire gun spewing death and destruction!!! There is so much latent anger out there!
          All I intended really was to expand our discussion past Winnie Mandela to other peers. Sorry if I messed up…

        • Ne nous trompons pas. Jamais les médias occidentaux ne la reconnaitront à sa juste valeur.
          Il aurait fallu pour cà qu’elle eut coopéré comme l’avait fait Nelson.
          Or Winnie, l’intrasigeante,celle qu’ils ont diabolisé toute så vie, pour rien au monde, n’aurait vendu la dignitè de son peuple.
          Shame on you all who are dipiciting her like a controversial character! We know who she really was, and we know you know it too…
          Do your job…but be assured we will do ours by giving the biggest honor to her name for ever.

    • FF aka De Pimento

      You’re an unrepentant hypocrite. You’ll have to be reborn ten thousand times for you to accomplish a 1000th of what she did in her first three decades of life.

      Please show her some respect. You posturing here fools no one.

  7. …under the pretext…
    ….on the pretext…..
    The two are interchangeable, the only problem there is the preposition.( ‘of’ is much better or correct )

  8. This woman deserves a place of honour in the collective memory of African people for refusing to join traitor ndah ngreh Mandela in betraying African people allowing land and the whole economy in the oppressor’s hands.this is the reason lies were fabricated against her and propagated as truth.in order to destroy her image in the minds of africans.so Mandela who was able to forgive four hundred years of slaughtering and disposition of African people could not forgive her for going out with another man?is this not sufficient evidence that all what she was accused of is lies?john henrick clarck said in his book Christopher Columbus and the African holocaust. the land issue in south Africa is not about apathied but who will control the gold in which south Africa has immense reserves.

    • Yes Bah!
      She has a place of honour in the memory of real Africans.

    • Small Beninois Acho,
      You are still involved in spinning your hollow verbal stunts! Mandela said it, that maintaining a death squard was at odds with what he stood for. Adultery is a secondary factor to their divorce. She turned into a monster and rightly paid a price for that. This takes away nothing from the fact that she was a firebrand.

      • Firefighter,so betraying African people by allowing the land we faught for over three hundred years in the hands of the enemy is what ndah ngreh Mandela stood for? yet Mao Zedong did the opposite with visible results in 1993 when the farce of Mandela’s release from prison was organised.the fact Aryan enemies name streets, schools, museums,in his name should have pushed you to doubt.but nothing.do some of our degree holders have a problem using Thier brain’s to think?

      • Small Beninois Acho,
        When caught in lies you keep digging yourself into a hole. Mandela chaffed in jail, went into the lion’s den and got back his country and handed it over to his companions in arms of yesteryears to rule. Rambling about Mao you know nothing about is risible. You wanted to spin that adultery thing here, but it’s not working. Mandela dropped his wife for
        Being the leader of a goon squard, engaged in kidnappings and murder.
        Is Zuma an aryan? Didn’t you see how many fancy cars were pulled from the homes of his corrupt friends?

  9. Winnie Mandela! What a woman, what an inspiration!
    Là femme de l’homme, la femme derrière l’homme.
    La lionnesse de Soweto! Elle n’a pas seulement épousé l’homme, mais la cause.
    Aucune femme de sa génération n’aura su faire preuve d’autant de courage qu’elle, Reine des Reines.
    Là vraie heroine de la lutte contre l’apartheid.
    Elle n’a pas lutté entre quatre murs, mais sur le champ de bataille….et mieux, elle est restée fidèle à ses convictions jusqu’au bout!
    Go in Power!

  10. Intimidation and fear, have caught up with our own Winnies. Where are the wives
    of the Nera Hotel abductives? Aren`t you women and passing through the same hell
    of experiences like Winnie had? Winnie, saw her period like you do, but became a man,
    when the going got tough. We all know her travails, but it took courage, real courage to
    get to this point. She had all the support from within and out. What is stopping you our
    own Winnies of the Ambazonian struggle? You seem to be real cowards, good only for
    the bed and kitchen and this is very disappointing. Wake up, Winnie did it. You too,
    can do it. The struggle should continue.

  11. Winnie Mandela is an inspiration for African women.She is a strong woman,and we must appreciate the fact that she contributed alot to conquer apartheid in South Africa despite her own negative sides.Her husband was branded a terrorist,but she kept on fighting.She devoted most part of her adulthood age to fight against apartheid.She had to raise her two daughters alone,while her husband was in jail.Mandela should not have divorced her becos of infidelity.If Mandela could forgive the whites who jailed him for 27 years and branded him terrorists,why could’nt he forgive Winnie?
    Its high time the Winnie of Ambasonia draws inspiration from this woman, and believe me,apartheid in Cameroon will become a thing of the past and she will be celebrated like this woman.No liberation struggle is easy.

    • Winnie Mandela is an inspiration. But you have to stop dragging her name in the mud by comparing her fight, the fight for the African people to this your delusional madness.

      • The word delutional did exist in the minds and mouths of many
        SA , even many outside. Today, even you, see it like them, but
        like they say it: the end justifies the means, it only turns out to be
        on the wrong side of history. Alluta Continua and Ambaland, shall
        be the beautiful new land.
        Distractors or shortsightedness, is no excuse. It is the evil in one.

  12. @Bikutsi Of course Winnie Mandela’s fight is the same like the one anglos in CMR are fighting today.They are all fight for freedom and equality.They are all fight to conquer injustice.For the very first time, an unpopular and rejected anglo politician has been given the prestigious ministry of interior.Are u ashamed to admit it?ANC was baned,so is SCNC.Mandela was branded terrorist,Sisiku has also been branded terrorist.Sisiku has been kidnapped for 2 months now without any member of his family knowing where he is and francos in CMR are in solidarity with his kidnap.Why is the apartheid regime in CMR afraid of frank dialogue on same table with SCNC? becos they don’t believe that anglo and franco are equal and should have equal rights.They impose like the apartheid regime in South Africa.

  13. Soyakutsi,
    You are confused as usual! You have told us time an again that Biya is France and France is the UN. This entity stood against Mandela and his wife. Biya arrests Sisuku and you support that action, the UN treated Winnie and husband as terrorists, you call her an inspiration. What’s wrong with you?

    • FF,
      no chance of tasting a pc of Blk P too soon, Saa.

      You go hammer Chinko cheries dem sotey you hear mwing.

      Who bin send you for CHN?

      Winnie got married at 21, and she started facing the injustices levied on her and her people the very next day. Had to run from one hideout to the other for years, with children for that matter. And you come here talking s*** abt an IRON AFRICAN MAMA…

      • I take nothing away from Winnie’s struggle. But she turned into a goon squad leader and I’m afraid no one can hide this reality. Soyakutsi has every right to take a look at Ras Banga’s old dreadlocks. They are neighbors. As for you, when white hair flop for your mbin,carry your old suitcase finally go back home. I no know whether dat Fochive yi outdated spy tactics of insisting sey you know place wey others dey nova flop your pocket with money now! 20 years for oyibo their backyard massa? Old taylong!

        • For waka from one kontri to the other for here na a matter of one hour…..Kah Walla, you bash, Winnie so-so kosh, es ke na dem mek’am mek darkie ndems dem jam for Guangdong?

          Short-short Chinko dem go shu you, ah sure seh na dem ova halla for minyongs di vex you wor-wor—try wear headphone—the ova halla no go mean anything for you again.

          Orda pipo for Winnie yi shoe, dem for even di chop pipo daso. Hmmm, eske you even know the kana suffer wey dis remé suffer?…

        • For waka from one kontri to another na nothing for Europe, but for waka from Europe to yr pays na hell for you tay long! Maybe you no know weti bash mean! You be infatuated with chinko dem, so u di only breath and sleep dem for dis forum. U no di describe day tall tall beauty wey u get for house, but do show yr
          Racism and hate for women by talking about them in demeaning ways. I nova ever make one sentence about how Kay Walla look like. You don betray your thuggish behavior and empty effeminate head by repeatedly insulting chinese. Frustration for old Europe don get the best of you! Man pikin wey yi di deal with woman dem no be infatuated by coshing others. Servicing men over dey don finish you! Wannabe spy!

  14. My little humble opininion is she had no chioce but to surround herself with henchmen ,considering how long her husband was in jail and the obvious fact that he was a born statesman and extremely vaild for presidentual office which made her and the childeren at risk due to the complete insanity of belive at that time that whites had the right to rule .
    .The party should of backed her up round the clock with deligent normal respectful party members to provide security not leave her to a situation like that ,her husband should of seen it coming too ,still he was in solitary confinement .
    South Africa changed for the better and it was due to their union ,her supporting his good will towards the people and no one can take that part of history out of ,history

  15. ” L’orsque mes avocats sont venus me voir apres 9 mois de détention, je n’avais toujours pas eu le droit de me laver. On ne me donnait que 2litres 1/2 d’eau pr jour.
    Mes avocats m’ont conseillé de ne pas me plaindre sinon on leur retirerit le droit de visite. J’ai donc tt écris dans un carnet au jour le jour.
    Je ne l’ai jamais relu depuis, meme avant qu’il soit publié.
    En fait, je pense que j’ai enfoui ts ces souvenirs au plus profond de moi-meme.
    Mais si tt le monde peut le lire aujourd’hui, C’est pour qu’on n’oublie pas ce que nous avons vécu et pour que cela n’arrive plus jamais. Pour qu’on oublie pas les épreuves que j’ai traversées
    Si je ne m’étais pas battue , il n’y aurait pas eu de Mandela, le monde l’aurait oublié et il serait mort en prison coe le souhaitaient ses bourreaux”