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Anti-apartheid activist Winnie Madikizela-Mandela dead at 81

in Africa & the Diaspora/Feature/Highlights by

Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, anti-apartheid activist and former wife of South Africa’s first Black president Nelson Mandela, died Monday following a lengthy illness, according to a family statement. She was 81.

“Mrs. Madikizela-Mandela was one of the greatest icons of the struggle against apartheid,” according to a family statement obtained by CNN. “She fought valiantly against the apartheid state and sacrificed her life for the freedom of the country.” Madikizela-Mandela died after a long illness at the Netcare Milpark Hospital in Johannesburg, South Africa.

Madikizela-Mandela is known as the fierce comrade and wife of deceased anti-apartheid leader, Nelson Mandela who late became South Africa’s first black president. When Nelson Mandela was jailed by a racist South African rule, she carried on the work to dismantle Apartheid, which ended in 1991.

South Africa’s president, Cyril Ramaphosa offered condolences in an official address to the nation.

Archbishop Desmond Tutu released a statement saying that her life was “a defining symbol of the struggle against apartheid.” He continues, “She refused to be bowed by the imprisonment of her husband, the perpetual harassment of her family by security forces, detentions, bannings and banishment. Her courageous defiance was deeply inspirational to me, and to generations of activists.”

As news of her death spread, many on social media began to speak out to express condolences and offer a glimpse of her work.

The Rev. Jesse Jackson Sr. said on Twitter, “In the darkest hours of the struggle to free South Africa, with Nelson Mandela in prison, the face of hope and courage was #Winnie Mandela. May she forever rest in #Power.

Columnist Tom Eaton said, “491 days in solitary confinement. They couldn’t get her husband to recant so they went after her, and she overcame all of them. Thank you, Winnie Madikizela-Mandela.”

No information on funeral arrangements has been released at this time.

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Veteran newspaper and digital journalist, she is a thought leader in accountability journalism and ethics, and serves as a member of PBS’ Editorial Standards Review Committee.

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