Cape Town – Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, an ANC stalwart and struggle veteran, passed away on Monday at the age of 81.
Madikizela-Mandela had been in hospital for a kidney infection as recently as January.
According to the Mandela family spokesperson Victor Dlamini, Madikizela-Mandela died peacefully at Milpark Hospital in Johannesburg early on Monday, surrounded by her family and loved ones.
“Madikizela-Mandela was one of the greatest icons of the struggle against apartheid. She fought valiantly against the apartheid state and sacrificed her life for the freedom of the country,” The Mandela family statement said.
“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 response to the news, President Cyril Ramaphosa said South Africa had lost a mother, a leader and an icon.
“Even at the darkest moments of our struggle for liberation, Mam’ Winnie was an abiding symbol of the desire of our people to be free. In the midst of repression, she was a voice of defiance and resistance.” said Ramaphosa, who added that Madikizela-Mandela was a “voice for the voiceless”.
Professor Njabulo Ndebele, Chairman of the Nelson Mandela Foundation, said all South Africans were indebted to Madikizela-Mandela, whether they acknowledge it or not.
“From the witness of her life, we knew we could stand tall; we knew also we could falter and stumble. Either condition was an affirmation of life. Her cry was our cry, and in 2018 we can say we did triumph,” said Ndebele in a statement.
Madikizela-Mandela’s official memorial service will be held on the 11th of April, whereas the official funeral will be held on the 14th of April.
In 1955, Madikizela-Mandela became South Africa’s first black social worker, working at Soweto’s Baragwanath hospital. She married Nelson Mandela in 1958, who at that time was a lawyer and leading member of the ANC. After Nelson Mandela was jailed in 1962, Madikizela-Mandela rose to become an influential ANC figure, while also having to endure harassment and prison time.
“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,” the Mandela family said.