South African anti-apartheid activist Winnie Mandela dies aged 81

South African anti-apartheid activist Winnie Mandela dies aged 81

Winnie Mandela was a highly controversial figure in South African politics, revered by many as the Mother of the Nation, but often dogged by scandal.

Born Nomzamo Winifred Zanyiwe Madikizela in 1939 in the village of Bizana, Transkei district, she was the daughter of a history teacher and a science teacher.

In 1953, on the advice of her father, she moved to Johannesburg to study at the Jan Hofmeyr School of Social Work – a rarity for a black woman at the time – where Mandela was the patron.

Winnie Mandela was a social worker before she married Nelson in 1958 and turned instead to a life of activism, helping to end apartheid 

She graduated in 1956 at the top of her class and was offered a scholarship to study in the US, but turned it down in order to become the first qualified social worker at Johannesburg’s Baragwanath Hospital.

It was during her work here that she first became political as she witnessed first-hand the effect apartheid was having on poor black communities.

Winnie first met Mandela in 1957 at a bus stop in Soweto while he was still married to his first wife, Evelyn Mase.

Their relationship was falling apart, however, and they divorced in 1958. A short time later Mandela and Winnie tied the knot.

Winnie spent 38 years married to Nelson, 27 of which were spent apart, separated from him in 1992 and divorced in 1996

Mandela was already a well-known political figure by this time, and their marriage – particularly the 16-year age gap between them – made the news.

While her husband was hounded by the government, Winnie began social action of her own, taking part in a protest against laws which restricted the movements of blacks in white areas.

Winnie, along with several other activists, was arrested and decided to spend two weeks in jail without posting bail as a furt

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