We all know Winnie Mandela as the beloved wife of South Africa’s legendary president Nelson Mandela. But there’s more about her that still remain unknown in the public eye. First, when Mandela was caged at Robben Island, we are made to believe Winnie stood by him all those while, supporting his legacy like a responsible, loving woman does to her husband. In fact, it was Winnie’s loyalty, strength, and courage that ultimately stifled Mandela’s release after being incarcerated for 27 years. For that reason, we find it necessary to grant her our crown of honor today by listing 10 things about her that you probably didn’t know:
She was Married to the First Presidents of Two Nations
Before she married South Africa’s anti-apartheid hero, Winnie Mandela was the beloved wife to Mozambique’s first president Samora Machel. Unfortunately, Samora died in 1986 following a mysterious plane crash, and it took Winnie 12 years before she remarried Nelson Mandela, which made her the first lady for the second time—but in a different nation.
She was 28 Years Younger than Nelson Mandela when they Got Married
She was 52 when she finally said I do to South Africa’s first president. Even though they chose a low-profile wedding—only attended by close friends and family members, the wedding is considered epic in the sense that two national heroes were actually tying the knot. According to her, not only did their advanced age made the relationship even better, it also made them realize the real value of true companionship and having the right partner in life.
She Later Got Separated from Nelson Mandela
After eight years of marriage, the two officially separated on 19th March, 1996. According to her responses in interviews, their separation was stifled by the conflict she had with the man she wedded and the man the world saw. “The buzz around him was somewhat confusing. But I learnt to cope by separating the two until it got to a point where it was better for us if we both went separate ways,” she recounted to Robyn Curnow in 2008 during a rare interview with CNN.
South Africa Did not Welcome her when she First Married Madiba
Like expected, South Africa was not warm enough to accept a foreign woman as their 1st first lady. To win them over, she chose to keep a laid-back demeanor by remaining in the background for all that while until the entire nation changed their perception of her.
She has been Compared to Jackie Kennedy
In Mozambique, Winnie Mandela has been likened to Jackie Kennedy by anyone who makes a reference to her. In fact, this comparison has been made not only because of her grace and class, but because of the misfortune that befell her when she lost her husband in that tragic plane crash while he was still in office.
She Wasn’t Attracted to Nelson Mandela when they First Met
She’s been quick to point out that she was somehow reluctant to marry Nelson Mandela when he first approached her with a marriage proposal. As stated by her, she finally gave in to his demands when he persistently used a number of old-fashioned wooing tactics, like occasionally brushing his shoulders with his personal bodyguards whenever he made impromptu stopovers just to get her chocolates.
She was Mandela’s Third Wife
Mandela’s first wife was Evelyn Mase, with whom they had 4 children—one deceased—before divorcing in 1958. According to Mandela’s biography “The Long-Walk-to-Freedom,” Evelyn made him choose between politics and family. As such, they finally got separated when the former was more alluring.
She’s Accredited with a Number of Achievements in her Own Right
She served Mozambique as the minister of Education for over 10 years. That, coupled with her passionate involvement in youth education, has actually succeeded in making her one of the most respected national icons in Mozambique.
She Turned Down an Offer to Pursue her Education in America
No African can actually turn down an opportunity to pursue higher education in America. In fact, if such an opportunity ever presents itself—even in the most subtle manner, any African would gladly take it with zero hesitation. But that wasn’t the case with Winnie. Without giving it a second thought, she turned down the scholarship to further her studies in America, and instead chose a medical school in Johannesburg—where she qualified as the first medical social worker in the country.
Her Life wasn’t Always Rosy like most People Think
Winnie Mandela has undergone a series of invasive legal orders, some of which resulted into the regular arrests she was subjected to under the apartheid government. She was placed under a strong surveillance, tortured and subjected to a series of house arrests. But despite all this, she was never broken enough to disclose ANC agenda.