Tributes paid to Winnie Mandela, controversial 'mother' of South Africa

President Uhuru Kenyatta on Monday mourned the death of South Africa's freedom fighter Winnie Madikizela-Mandela who passed on after a long illness.

February 11, 1990, anti-apartheid leader and African National Congress (ANC) member Nelson Mandela and wife Winnie Madikizela-Mandela raise fists upon Mandela release from Victor Verster prison in Paarl.

African Commission chairman Moussa Faki Mahamat also paid tribute to Winnie Mandela, saying "the continent and beyond" were in grief at her passing. She will always be an inspiration for future generator of women revolutionaries.

Her personal assistant‚ Zodwa Zwane‚ first confirmed Madikizela-Mandela's death on Monday afternoon. Madikizela-Mandela told him of the changes taking place in his homeland and became his often outspoken and controversial public voice.

Despite being convicted of kidnapping, theft and fraud, Winnie Mandela served in South Africa's parliament for years. "But look what came out", she said.

In 2001, a television camera caught Mbeki brushing Madikizela-Mandela away and knocking off her hat after she arrived an hour late for a rally to commemorate a 1976 anti-apartheid uprising by Soweto schoolchildren and students.

"She was a voice for the voiceless", said Ramaphosa.

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In popular culture, Winnie has been portrayed onscreen by actresses including Jennifer Hudson, who played the activist in 2011's Winnie Mandela, while Naomie Harris took on the role for 2013 movie Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom, starring opposite Idris Elba as Nelson. Her activism landed her in jail several times. Though she may not have been imprisoned for 27 years or become president of the ANC, without her contribution and continued work during the apartheid struggle, this country would not have achieved what it eventually did in 1994.

"Many off our people can not believe that she has departed".

Years later, she clashed with the next president, Jacob Zuma, becoming a political patron of renegade ANC youth leader Julius Malema, who quit the century-old movement to found his own ultra-leftist political party.

Born Nomzamo Winifred Zanyiwe Madikizela on September 26, 1936, in the village of Mbongweni, she completed university, a rarity for black women at the time, and became the first qualified social worker at Johannesburg's Baragwanath Hospital. "She was an inspiration to both young and old who shared her vision of an egalitarian prosperous and free South Africa".

"She refused to be bowed by the imprisonment of her husband, the perpetual harassment of her family by security forces, detentions, bannings and banishment", Mr Tutu said.

Suggestions that Winnie remained extremely close to Nelson Mandela in his final years were fuelled in a recent book by his doctor.

"We can't get exhausted when you have given us work to do‚" he told her.

  • Adam Floyd