Winnie Mandela Dies at 81: Nelson Mandela’s ex Wife

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81-year-old Winnie Mandela, Nelson Mandela’s first wife died early this morning at the Netcare Milpark Hospital Johannesburg, South Africa.

Her death was announced by her spokesman, Victor Dlamini. He said in a statement that Winnie Mandela died “after a long illness, for which she had been in and out of hospital since the start of the year.”

Over the last years, she’s suffered from health failure. She had been treated for diabetes and also underwent major surgeries. According to the South African Broadcasting Corporation,  she attended a church service on Friday and later complained of flu to which she was taken to hospital and admitted throughout the weekend. To which she died this morning.

In a statement made by the family, Winnie Mandela was described as a strong force for the apartheid struggle.

“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.

She was known as the “Mother of the Nation” because of her struggle against white minority rule in South Africa.

Winnie Mandela was married to Nelson Mandela for 38 years, including the 27 years he was imprisoned on an island near Cape Town.
“She kept the memory of her imprisoned husband Nelson Mandela alive during his years on Robben Island and helped give the struggle for justice in South Africa one its most recognizable faces,” the statement said.