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Sat, 09.26.1936

Winnie Mandela, Anti-Apartheid Activist born

Winnie Mandela

*Winnie Mandela was born on this date in 1936.  She was a Black African anti-apartheid activist and policy advocate.

From Bizana, Eastern Cape province, she was one of nine children in her family.  Her father, Columbus, was a local history teacher during her infant years. In later years, he was the minister of the Transkei Government’s Forestry and Agriculture Department during Kaizer Matanzima's rule. Her mother, Nomathamsanqa Mzaidume (Gertrude), was a science teacher.

As a young girl, her family moved around within the former Transkei due to her father’s work.  She attended primary school in Bizana, but when she was nine years old, the family moved to eMbongweni, where as well as attending school, Winnie would help her father labor on the farm. This helped create a closer bond with her father, who was known for his aloofness despite wielding a great love for his children.  Winnie Madikizela studied social work at the Jan Hofmeyr School.

She became a political activist early in her job as a hospital social worker, and in 1958, she married Nelson Mandela.  After her husband was jailed for life in 1964 for sabotage and plotting to overthrow the government, Madikizela-Mandela campaigned tirelessly for his release and emerged as a prominent anti-apartheid figure in her own right, undergoing detention, banishment, and arrest.  On Feb. 11, 1990, as she walked hand-in-hand with her Nelson Mandela out of Victor Verster prison near Cape Town, she punched the air in the clenched-fist salute of black power.

For her and her husband, it was a crowning moment that led four years later to the end of centuries of white domination when he became South Africa's first Black president.  But their marriage began to fall apart in the years to come.  The end of apartheid marked the start of a string of legal and political troubles for Madikizela-Mandela.  As evidence emerged in the dying years of apartheid of the brutality of her Soweto enforcers, the "Mandela United Football Club," her soubriquet switched from "Mother" of the nation to "Mugger."

Blamed for the killing of activist Stompie Seipei, who was found near her Soweto home with his throat cut, she was convicted in 1991 of kidnapping and assaulting the 14-year-old because he was suspected of being an informer. Her six-year jail term was reduced on appeal to a fine.  The couple divorced in 1996, nearly four decades after they were married. They had two children together.

Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, who emerged as a combative anti-apartheid campaigner during her husband Nelson Mandela's decades in jail but whose reputation was later tarnished by allegations of violence, died on April 2nd, 2018, at the age of 81.  President Cyril Ramaphosa said, "Winnie Mandela leaves a huge legacy, and, as we say in African culture, a gigantic tree has fallen."   An official memorial service was held for Madikizela-Mandela on April 11, and a national funeral on April 14, 2018.


South African

By Dinky Mkhize, Reuters

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