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Tributes paid to Winnie Mandela

LEGACY: Winnie and Nelson Mandela

THE WORLD paid tribute to Winnie Mandela, who has died at the age of 81 earlier this week.

The South African anti-apartheid campaigner passed away in the early hours of Monday (April 2) after a long illness.

Family spokesman Victor Dlamini said Mrs Mandela "succumbed peacefully in the early hours of Monday afternoon surrounded by her family and loved ones" following a long illness, which had seen her go in and out of hospital since the start of the year.

Paying tribute African National Congress (ANC) chairperson Gwede Mantashe said: "With the departure of Mama Winnie, [we have lost] one of the very few who are left of our stalwarts and icons. She was one of those who would tell us exactly what is wrong and right, and we are going to be missing that guidance."

Retired South African archbishop and Nobel laureate Desmond Tutu hailed the late Winnie Mandela, who died on Monday, as 'a defining symbol of the struggle against apartheid'.

He said: “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.”

U.S civil rights campaigner Reverend Jesse Jackson also paid tribute.

He tweeted: “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.”

Among the celebrities paying tribute to Mrs Madikizela-Mandela was actor Iris Elba who played her husband in the film Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom.

He wrote on Twitter: “Rest in peace Mama Winnie. My heart is heavy right now. You lived a full and important life contributing to the liberation of a nation by force and ACTUAL ACTIVISM. You will never be forgotten.”

Naomi Campbell also tweeted: “I cherish the times I spent with you, embracing me in your family & home. You were Woman of strength that endured so much hardship and sacrifice. Without you we would not know anything about Tata and his 27 years. You will remain in my heart!! R.I.P WINNIE MANDELA.”

Leading UK political figures also paid tribute.

Shadow home secretary Diane Abbott said: “I will never forget the image of Winnie walking hand in hand with Nelson Mandela when he was finally released from prison in February 1990. She had campaigned for 27 long years for his release. Nobody can deny her extraordinary courage and that, for poor black South Africans, she remains a heroine.”

Tottenham MP David Lammy said: “In the those desperate years of apartheid when Nelson Mandela and so many anti-apartheid heroes were locked up on Robben Island, we looked to Winnie who fought fearlessly as a defiant voice for the voiceless and a free South Africa.”

Winnie Madikizela-Mandela was born in September, 1936, in Mbongweni, South Africa.

After finishing university, she became the first qualified social worker at Johannesburg’s Baragwanath Hospital.

Not long afterwards she met future husband Nelson Mandela at a Soweto bus stop and they got married in the summer of 1958. But after being pursued by apartheid authorities he was later forced into hiding.

The couple spent much of their marriage apart after Nelson was imprisoned for 27 years.

Throughout the height of apartheid, she remained at the forefront of the battle, urging others to carry on the fight ‘to the bitter end’ – and she later became known as the ‘Mother of the Nation’.

She was arrested for the first time while protesting the pass system that restricted movements of black people in white-designated areas.

However her activism and battle to end apartheid was also seen as controversial.

When Nelson was released from prison in 1990, Winnie was by his side.

Sadly the couple separated just two years later, and divorced in 1996.

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