Anti-apartheid activist, Nomzamo Winifred (Winnie) Madikizela-Mandela, died on Monday, 2 April, at the age of 81 due to health issues.

The Mandela family confirmed that Madikizela-Mandela passed away following an illness which she had been in and out of hospital for since the beginning of the year.

The family spokesperson, Victor Dlamini, said, “It is with profound sadness that we inform the public that Mrs Winnie Madikizela-Mandela passed away at the Netcare Milpark Hospital‚ in Johannesburg. She succumbed peacefully in the early hours of Monday afternoon, surrounded by her family and loved ones.”
“The Mandela family are deeply grateful for the gift of her life and even as our hearts break at her passing, we urge all those who loved her to celebrate this most remarkable woman,” he said.

Born in Bizana in the Eastern Cape, Madikizela-Mandela was one of the most fearless apartheid struggle icons. She fought valiantly against the apartheid state and sacrificed her life for the freedom of South Africa. After matriculating in Bizana she moved to Johannesburg to study social work where she met lawyer and anti-apartheid stalwart, Dr Nelson Mandela, in 1957. A year later, they were married and had two children. Her marriage to Mandela was short lived as he was arrested in 1963 and sentenced to life imprisonment for treason. Her activism and resistance to apartheid landed her in jail on numerous occasions, eventually causing her banishment to the small town of Brandfort in the Free State.

She kept the memory of her imprisoned husband alive during his years on Robben Island and helped give the struggle for justice in South Africa one of its most recognisable faces. She dedicated most of her adult life to the cause of the people and for this, was known far and wide as the ‘Mother of The Nation’.

In a statement, South African film producer, Anant Singh, said South Africa has lost a giant. “My family and I are saddened and shocked by the sudden passing of Mama Winnie Madikizela Mandela. She was a remarkable woman who kept the flame of the liberation struggle burning in South Africa while Madiba and his comrades were in prison. She truly lived up to the title of ‘Mother of The Nation’, she endured the brunt of the apartheid regime’s harshness at its worst. Her courage and determination was unwavering.”

“I was fortunate to have visited her recently and she was in her sprightly self, and I enjoyed a delightful conversation that spanned the politics of the day and family. She remained a steadfast activist and an independent thinker who never waived from principles and was always committed to the cause of our people.

“We will miss her tremendously, our heartfelt condolences go out to Zenani, Zindzi and the entire Mandela family,” added Singh. Madikizela-Mandela’s will be remembered for her voice, which often revealed much wisdom. Some of her sentiments included, “Together, hand in hand, with our matches and necklaces, we shall liberate this country”, “To those who oppose us, we say, ‘Strike the woman and you strike a rock'”,
“There is nothing the apartheid government has not done to me, there isn’t any pain I haven’t known”, “I will not allow the selfless efforts of my husband and his friends to be abandoned, I will continue the struggle for a free and equal South Africa, “I am not sorry, I will never be sorry, I would do everything I did again if I had to, everything”, “Sport has the power to change the world” and “Preventing the conflicts of tomorrow means changing the mindsets of the youth of today”.

Madikizela-Mandela will be laid to rest at a state funeral on Saturday, 14 April.