September 26: Winnie Mandela, aka ‘The Mother Of South Africa,’ Was Born On This Date In 1936

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By Victor Trammell

Photo credits: J. Countess/Getty Images

Nelson Mandela’s second wife, Nomzamo Winifred Zanyiwe Madikizela, popularly known as Winnie Mandela, was a politician and anti-apartheid campaigner from South Africa. She was born on September 26, 1936.

From 1994 until 2003, Mrs. Madikizela-Mandela was a member of parliament. She served as South Africa’s deputy minister of arts and culture from 1994 until her death in 2009. She was an African National Congress (ANC) political party member who oversaw the organization’s Women’s League and National Executive Committee. Supporters of Madikizela-Mandela referred to her as the “Mother of the Nation.” She was raised in Bizana, where she graduated with a social work degree, and was born into a Xhosa royal family.

In 1958, she wed Nelson Mandela, a vocal opponent of apartheid. They have two children together and were married for 38 years. Madikizela-Mandela served as Mandela’s public face for the duration of his 27-year jail sentence beginning in 1963, when he was sentenced to prison as a result of the Rivonia Trial. She became more well-known within the domestic anti-apartheid movement at that time. Madikizela-Mandela was imprisoned by the apartheid state security services on multiple occasions, subjected to torture, banned from public life, exiled to a small hamlet, and held in isolation for a number of months.

The Western media sources that vilified Madikizela-Mandela said that in the middle of the 1980s, her imperialist foes accused her of waging a “rule of terror” that was “at the center of an orgy of violence” in Soweto. The anti-apartheid movement in South Africa denounced these claims, and the ANC in exile rebuked them. Her house was destroyed during this time by Soweto locals.

Madikizela-Mandela was found to be “politically and morally accountable for the gross violations of human rights committed by the Mandela United Football Club,” her security detail, according to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC). This specialo investigative agency was set up by Nelson Mandela’s government to investigate human rights abuses. The necklacing of accused police informers and collaborators with the apartheid administration was supported by Madikizela-Mandela. Her adversaries, who were supported by Western imperialists, charged the security detail of kidnapping, torturing, and killing individuals.

The murder of Stompie Sepei, 14, is the most infamous crime. In the end, Madikizela-Mandela was found guilty of capturing Sepei. On February 11, 1990, Nelson Mandela was freed from jail. In 1992, Mr. and Mrs. Mandela divorced. In March 1996, their divorce was legally finalized. The ex-wife of Mr. Mandela paid him a visit during his terminal illness. Mrs. Mandela participated in the post-apartheid ANC administration as a senior ANC official. She was, however, fired from her position due to suspicions of corruption.

Madikizela-Mandela was found guilty of fraud and theft in 2003. After that, she briefly stepped away from politics before coming back a few years later. Winnie Madikizela-Mandela passed away on April 2, 2018 in Johannesburg, South Africa.

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