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Winnie Madikizela-Mandela: Remembering South Africa's 'Mother Of The Nation'

Winnie Madikizela-Mandela: Remembering South Africa's 'Mother Of The Nation'

Photo credit: Mujahid Safodien/AFP/Getty Images

On Monday, Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, South African anti-apartheid activist and former wife of South Africa's first Black President, Nelson Mandela, passed away at 81 years old "after a long illness, for which she had been in and out of hospital since the start of the year," the African National Congress said in a statement. 

"Mrs. 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," said the statement. 

Photo credit: AP

Madikizela-Mandela was born in a village of Mbongweni (which is the Eastern Cape) in 1936. She went on to become South Africa's first Black professional social welfare worker and a hero of the country's anti-apartheid struggle after she married Nelson Mandela in 1958. During his 27 years of imprisonment, Madikizela-Mandela endured banishment, harassment, and imprisonment herself for continuing to fight for freedom and equal rights in South Africa. 

 "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 added. "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. 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."

Rest in power to Winnie Madikizela-Mandela.