'All South Africans are indebted to Mama Winnie' - Nelson Mandela Foundation

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She was a remarkable woman who kept the flame of the liberation struggle burning in South Africa while Madiba and his comrades were in prison.

Mama Winnie Madikizela-Mandela was a Revolutionary and Mother of our Nation. She was at his side, brandishing a victor's clenched-fist salute, when he was finally released from prison in February 1990.

The 81 year old anti -apartheid campaigner died after a long illness which saw her in and out of hospital since the beginning of this year.

Energy Minister Jeff Radebe expressed condolences on behalf of the ruling African National Congress and urged those who loved her to celebrate her.

Mandela, who died in 2013, was imprisoned throughout most of their marriage, and Madikizela-Mandela's own activism against white minority rule led to her being jailed for months and placed under house arrest for years. The next year, she is sacked for insubordination.

Instead, she endorsed the "necklacing" method of killing suspected informers and police with fuel-doused tires put around the neck and set alight.

The couple divorced in 1996, two years after Mandela became president in South Africa's first all-race elections.

On Monday, Ramaphosa praised Madikizela-Mandela as "an advocate for the dispossessed and the marginalized" and "a voice for the voiceless".

Dressed in full ANC colours of yellow, black and green, she asked Ramaphosa, who is known for his morning runs, "Why don't you get exhausted?" This will go on through the night, all week as we prepare her to rest.

The president recalled his last moments with the stalwart, and said her death was a severe loss. She endured the brunt of the apartheid regime's harshness at its worst. "Despite the hardships she faced, she never doubted that the struggle for freedom and democracy would succeed".

Although Madikizela-Mandela, who suffered from diabetes, helped usher in a new, more equitable South African political system during her lifetime, she was also entangled in a number of scandals over the years. Winnie built her role as a tough, glamorous black activist with a loyal grassroots following. As we say in African culture‚ "A giant tree has fallen".

"In African culture, we sing when we're hurt", ANC Women's League official Winnie Ngwenya, 64, told AFP. She had surrounded herself with a band of vigilante bodyguards called the Mandela United Football Club, who earned a terrifying reputation for violence.

Winnie was born Nomzamo Winifred Zanyiwe Madikizela in 1936 in the Eastern Cape - then known as the Transkei - in South Africa and later moved to Johannesburg where she became a social worker during the Apartheid era and met Nelson Mandela in 1957. She was admitted due to a complaint about her flu after she attended church on Good Friday. She also did not have a good relationship with the ANC during Thabo Mbeki's presidency.

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