South African bishops offer condolences for anti-apartheid activist Winnie Mandela

Winnie Madikizela Mandela salutes the crowd

Winnie Madikizela Mandela salutes the crowd

Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, the ex-wife of former South Africa leader Nelson Mandela and anti-apartheid icon has died at the age of 81 after a long illness.

The firebrand activist died peacefully in Johannesburg's Milpark hospital on Monday, her family said, adding that she was "was one of the greatest icons of the struggle against Apartheid".

People in Johannesburg expressed condolences to the Mandela family on Tuesday (April 3) after the death of South Africa's struggle stalwart, Winnie Madikizela-Mandela.

In death, tributes to Winnie Madikizela-Mandela have cemented her place as a fearless anti-apartheid campaigner in the liberation struggle.

Photo/AgenciesAn iconic picture of the 20th century: Nelson Mandela walks hand-in-hand with Winnie after 27 years in prison.

"The Government of Antigua and Barbuda has learned of the passing of Mrs Winnie Mandela, the first wife of Nelson Mandela, who was instrumental in bringing freedom to South Africa". They had two children together.

"She as an abiding symbol of the desire of our people to be free".

In 1989, Winnie came under fire after being accused of involvement in the kidnap and killing of 14-year-old township militant, Stompie Seipei.

On Monday night mourners gathered at her Soweto home to pay tribute to her "fighting spirit", singing struggle-era songs in tribute and praise.

She was born on September 26, 1936 as Nomzamo Winifred Zanyiwe Madikizela in the Eastern Cape Province. Mandela fled into exile overseas as the political situation in South Africa worsened, returning from exile eventually, only to be arrested and to be sentenced to life imprisonment in what became known as the Rivonia Trial.

She and her husband began a family before Nelson Mandela went underground and then was imprisoned for more than a quarter-century.

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

In 1986, she was widely linked to "necklacing", when suspected traitors were burnt alive by a petrol-soaked vehicle tire being put over their head and set alight.

"Her courageous defiance was deeply inspirational to me, and to generations of activists". Her tenacity reinforced my personal respect, love and growing affection, it also attracted the admiration of the world at large.

She had back surgery a year ago.

They said as one of the pioneer Members of Parliament, "Ma-Winnie", as she was affectionately known, paved the way for what the Parliament of South Africa has since become.

During her almost 38-year marriage to Nelson Mandela, she fought for black majority rule even as she vowed to escape the shadow of the great man.

In 2003, during his tenure as vice-chancellor of UCT, my predecessor Professor Njabulo Ndebele penned his critically acclaimed first book, The Cry of Winnie Mandela.

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