bdmetronews Desk ॥ Winnie Mandela, the former wife of South African anti-apartheid icon Nelson Mandela, died on Monday aged 81, triggering an outpouring of tributes to one of the country’s defining and most divisive figures.
She died in a Johannesburg hospital after a long illness, family spokesman Victor Dlamini said in a statement.
Winnie Mandela, who was married to Nelson Mandela for 38 years, played a high-profile role in the struggle to end white-minority rule but her place in history was stained by controversy and accusations of violence.
Archbishop Desmond Tutu said he and generations of activists were “deeply” inspired by Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, who died in a Johannesburg hospital on Monday, despite controversies that dogged the anti-apartheid struggle veteran until her death.
“She refused to be bowed by the imprisonment of her husband, the perpetual harassment of her family by security forces, detentions, bannings and banishment,” Mr Tutu said in a statement on Monday. “May she rest in peace and rise in glory.”
Ms Mandela, who was often called “the mother of the nation,” had been in and out of the hospital since the beginning of the year, according to a statement released by her family on Monday, and died early Monday afternoon surrounded by family and loved ones.
“Mrs Madikizela-Mandela was one of the greatest icons of the struggle against Apartheid,” the statement said. “She fought valiantly against the Apartheid state and sacrificed her life for the freedom of the country.”
Ms Mandela was married to African National Congress leader and South Africa’s first president Nelson Mandela for nearly four decades, though most of their marriage was spent apart after Mr Mandela was imprisoned on Robben Island.