Winnie Mandela: South African Anti-Apartheid Campaigner, Dies At 81

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The death has been announced of Winnie Madikizela-Mandela at the age of 81.

After battling a long illness, Winnie Madikizela Mandela, Mother of the Nation, passed away this afternoon at the Milpark Hospital in Johannesburg surrounded by her loved ones.

Famously pictured hand-in-hand as Nelson Mandela walked free from prison after 27 years, the couple was a symbol of the anti-apartheid struggle for almost three decades before her reputation became tainted legally and politically, the BBC reported.

Winnie Madikizela-Mandela became a potent symbol of South Africa's anti-apartheid struggle when she was banished and jailed for campaigning for the rights of black South Africans and her husband's release.

She was married to Nelson Mandela for 38 years, including the 27 years he was imprisoned on an island near Cape Town.

The Honourable Gaston Browne, having learned of the death of Winnie Mandela, has asked that the Government of Antigua and Barbuda express its sympathies to the family of Mrs. Mandela, and to the people and Government of South Africa. Although Winnie maintained her innocence with regards to Stompie's murder and Jerry Richardson, the coach of the Mandela United Football Club (founded by Winnie), was ultimately charged with the murder, it somewhat blemished her reputation in the public eye.

Additional reporting from Newsy affiliate CNN. It was her advocacy-in collaboration with many world leaders-that contributed to the isolation of South Africa.

Ms Madikizela-Mandela steadfastly denied any knowledge of any killings, leading the judge in that case to brand her "an unblushing liar".

The couple separated in 1992, two years after Mandela was released and divorced in 1996.

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In 1991 she was convicted of ordering the 1988 kidnapping of four youths in Soweto.

"Somewhere it seems that something went wrong", magistrate Peet Johnson said as he sentenced her to five years in jail, later overturned on appeal.

The family said she had 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".

President Mandela accused her of adultery, and in the same year, dismissed her as deputy minister of arts and culture - the only post she has held in government since white minority rule ended.

I can't help but recall her words to me when I met her, recounting her last moments with Mandela in hospital.

Ms Madikizela-Mandela always was aware of the danger of being submerged in the shadow of her husband's all-encompassing personality.

The newly freed Mr Mandela stood by his wife, urging friends to come to court to show their support, according to Ms Cachalia in her autobiography When Hope And History Rhyme.

It said Madikizela-Mandela would remain an embodiment of its values.

Something of a firebrand, she continued to clash with successive ANC presidents in and out of parliament for the rest of her life. "He loved her to the end".

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