Winnie Mandela, Apartheid Activist, Dies At 81

Apartheid activist Winnie Mandela died Monday morning. (April 2) Family spokesman Victor Dlamini confirmed Mandela’s death and said the 81 year old passed away due to an illness she’d been privately battling for the past year.

“She succumbed peacefully in the early hours of Monday afternoon surrounded by her family and loved ones,” Dlamini said.

Winnie became known for taking the baton from her husband Nelson Mandela and courageously fighting against apartheid while Nelson was jailed for 27 years. An image of the two walking hand-in-hand as Mandela was granted his freedom became an image of struggle and victory for the couple and South Africa.


Nobel laureate Desmond Tutu praised Winnie Mandela for her persistence and fearlessness upon learning of her passing. “Her courageous defiance was deeply inspirational to me, and to generations of activists,” the retired archbishop said. “She was defining symbol of the struggle against apartheid”

President Cyril Ramaphosa, who is reportedly expected to visit the Mandela family later this evening, also offered kind words.

With the departure of Mama Winnie, [we have lost] one of the very few who are left of our stalwarts and icons. She was one of those who would tell us exactly what is wrong and right, and we are going to be missing that guidance.”

A film about Winnie Mandela’s life starring Jennifer Hudson in the principle role and Terrence Howard hit theaters in 2009.  At this time, no details about her funeral have been announced.