The former wife of Mandela and anti-apartheid campaigner Winnie Madikizela-Mandela has died aged 81, her personal assistant reports the breaking news.
Winnie Madikizela-Mandela was the former wife of South Africa’s first black president, Nelson Mandela. The couple famously pictured hand-in-hand as Mr Mandela walked free from prison after 27 years, and were a symbol of the anti-apartheid struggle for nearly three decades.
Family spokesman Victor Dlamini said Mrs Mandela “succumbed peacefully in the early hours of Monday afternoon surrounded by her family and loved ones” following a long illness, which had seen her go in and out of hospitals since earlier this year.
Retired archbishop and Nobel laureate Desmond Tutu praised her as a “defining symbol of the struggle against apartheid”.
“Her courageous defiance was deeply inspirational to me, and to generations of activists,” he added.
Mrs Madikizela-Mandela was born in 1936 in the Eastern Cape then known as Transkei.
She was a trained social worker when she met her future husband in the 1950s. They were married for a total of 38 years, although for almost three decades of that time they were separated due to Mr Mandela’s imprisonment.
The couple divorced in 1996, but she kept his surname and maintained ties with him.
May her soul rest in peace
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