A life of struggle — Winnie Madikizela-Mandela

Posted April 03, 2018

Perhaps this was all to prepare her for the biggest blow that would eventually come: the infamous Rivonia Trial which resulted in the imprisonment of Nelson Mandela on Robben Island for close to three decades.

Scores of South Africans have been thrown into a state of mourning following the announcement of the death of relentless anti-apartheid campaigner Winnie Madikizela-Mandela.

This was exactly a year after the passing of Nelson Mandela, South Africa's first black president.

Four years later, she was back in court, facing fraud and theft charges in relation to an elaborate bank loan scheme. Her dedication to the plight of her people gained her the love and the respect of the nation. She bore the air of a troublemaker, arriving late at rallies and haranguing comrades, including Thabo Mbeki, Mandela's successor as president.

"She is an inspiration to all South Africans - to stand up and emulate the strength and audacity with which she fought for the rights of people in this country".

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The pair were a symbol of the anti-apartheid struggle in South Africa for almost three decades, and she carried on his work during his imprisonment. Madikizela-Mandela also known as "mother of the nation" reportedly had been admitted to hospital in January with a kidney infection. Mandela preceded her death in 2013.

"She was very courageous, she didn't fear anything, a very committed person to both the ANC and the ANC Women's League", continued the Rivonia trialist, who spent time on Robben Island for his efforts to see a democratic South Africa.

The ANC, which was the main movement against apartheid, had lost popularity in recent years in part because of scandals linked to former President Jacob Zuma, who resigned in February. "She always advocated for people who needed help", said biographer Bezdrob.

The years Mandela was imprisoned were the most hard as Winnie continued the defiance struggle.

As the years passed and Madikizela-Mandela's public standing plummeted, her relationship with the party she loved soured.

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Nelson Mandela sacked her from his cabinet, then divorced her.

The execution was carried on by the so-called Mandela United Football Club, a vigilante gang that claimed to be her bodyguard.

Madikizela-Mandela was regularly detained, tortured and placed under house arrest by the apartheid regime.

"Charity began at home with her, she was our mother".

The first five turbulent years of their marriage saw Mandela going underground to build the armed struggle against apartheid, and finally to prison in 1963, while his wife gave birth to two daughters.

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She had also expressed support for the current leadership of the ANC party - which her husband led to power in the euphoric post-apartheid elections of 1994. Madikizela-Mandela later became embroiled in disputes over Mandela's estate.