Winnie Mandela: Anti-apartheid icon no more

South African anti-apartheid campaigner Winnie Madikizela-Mandela died on Monday at the Netcare Milpark Hospital after a long illness. She was 81.

The SABC said she was admitted to the hospital over the weekend complaining of the flu after she attended a church service on Friday. She had been treated for diabetes and underwent major surgeries as her health began failing over the last several years.

Winnie Madikizela-Mandela
No more

Winnie Madikizela-Mandela was one of the greatest icons of the struggle against apartheid. She was the former wife of South Africa’s first black president, Nelson Mandela.

In April 2016, she was accorded one of South Africa’s highest honors: the Order of Luthuli, given, in part, for contributions to the struggle for democracy.

Uncompromising opponent of racial-segregation system maintained ties with Nelson Mandela despite their divorce in 1996.

However, she chafed at being defined by Mr Mandela, resenting the notion that her anti-apartheid credentials had been eclipsed by her husband’s global stature and celebrity. She insisted that her contribution had been wrongly depicted as a pale shadow of his.

“I am not Mandela’s product,” she told an interviewer. “I am the product of the masses of my country and the product of my enemy” — references to South Africa’s white rulers under apartheid and to her burning hatred of them, rooted in her own years of mistreatment, incarceration and banishment.

She was married to Nelson Mandela for 38 years, including the 27 years he was imprisoned on an island near Cape Town. The couple were divorced in 1996, two years after Nelson Mandela became South Africa’s President.

At the time of her death, Madikizela-Mandela who has fondly be known as “the mother of the nation”, was still a member of South Africa’s parliament.