Winnie Mandela is an activist and politician from South Africa popular for being the wife of South Africa’s legendary president, Nelson Mandela.
Winnie Mandela’s Biography
Winnie Madikizela-Mandela was born in the village of eMbongweni, Bizana, Pondoland, (modern-day Eastern Cape Province in South Africa), on 26 September 1936 as Nomzamo Winifred Zanyiwe Madikizela.
Having come from a family of educated parents, Winnie also towed that path. She attended a high school in Bizana where she was the head girl during her period of study, from there, she moved on to Jan Hofmeyr School, Johannesburg, where she earned a degree in social work in 1956 in spite of restrictions on the education of blacks during the period of apartheid. Subsequently, she bagged a bachelor’s degree in international relations from the University of Witwatersrand many years after her first degree.
Winnie Mandela met anti-apartheid activist, Nelson Mandela, in 1957, at the age of 22. Their meeting came just at the beginning of a second treason trial, which would see Mandela imprisoned for 27 years. The couple tied the knot in June 1958 and six years later, the prison doors slammed behind her husband.
As a result of her strong involvement in political activities, the years that came after her husband’s imprisonment saw her going in and out of jail as the police persecuted her relentlessly in an attempt to demoralize Mandela.
Due to her political activities, Winnie was regularly detained by the South African government. She was tortured, subjected to house arrest and kept under surveillance. In 1969, she was charged with terrorism and consequently, was held in solitary confinement for more than one year. Winnie Mandela also endured another six months in jail in 1973 but still came out with her spirit unbroken.
Unwilling to give in to her oppressors, the fighter woman was once again locked up for five months in 1976 for urging crowds to “fight to the bitter end” during the student riot revolt which broke out in Soweto that year. Later on, she was sent on an exile to a remote town in Brandfort for seven years. On her return to Soweto, the firebrand militant-martyr continued from where she had left off but soiled her hands with the blood of a young activist called Stompie Sepei.
Winnie Mandela was able to sustain her relationship with her husband through letter and regular visits to the prison. In fact, it was her loyalty, strength, and courage that ultimately led to Mandela’s release after being incarcerated for 27 years. When Nelson Mandela was finally set free in 1990, she was standing beside him, holding his hand, but had allegedly rejected him for a younger man named Dali Mpofu, in private. However, Mandela threw his weight behind Winne when she was convicted for the abduction of Sepei and her six-year sentence was suspended on appeal.
Her marriage to the freedom fighter lasted for 38 years. Even though the couple was still married by the time Nelson Mandela became South Africa’s first President in May 1994, they had already separated two years earlier, precisely in 1992 and by 19 March 1996, their divorce was concluded. Winnie’s affair with her young lover reportedly contributed to the failure of the marriage.
In 1994, the president’s ex-wife was appointed a deputy minister in Nelson Mandela’s government but was eventually laid off due to insubordination. Winnie Mandela is a member of the National Executive Committee of South Africa’s ruling party, African National Congress (ANC), and is still popular among her supporters, who call her the “Mother of the Nation”.
Her Family and Children
Winnie Mandela is number four among the eight children of her parents, Columbus and Gertrude who were both teachers. Sadly, Winnie lost her mother when she was only 9 years old and as a result, all her siblings were sent to live with different relatives.
She had two daughters with her husband before he was sent to prison in 1964. Their first daughter, Zenani Mandela-Dlamini, was born on 4 February 1958. She would almost have been birthed in prison as her mother, Winnie, was arrested shortly before her birth. Zenani, now a diplomat, was only four years old when her father was thrown in jail.
Winnie’s second daughter Zindziswa Mandela-Hlongwane is a politician currently serving as South Africa’s ambassador to Denmark. She was born on 23 December 1960.
Winnie Mandela Net Worth
Although Winnie Mandela earned an annual salary of around $90,000, as a member of parliament, substantial information about her net worth is currently unavailable.
Is She Dead?
For some time now, Winnie Mandela has not been physically strong as a result of various sicknesses which constantly takes her in and out of the hospital. As a result, there were several rumours alleging that she died.
But with each rumour, she always comes back alive until 2nd April 2018 when it was reported and truly confirmed that the anti-apartheid activist has passed on. Following the end of her adventurous and impactful life, the South African government honoured her passing with a state funeral.