South African revolutionary leader Winnie Mandela dies at 81
On Monday, Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, perhaps one of South Africa’s most beloved and most complex figures, passed away at the age of 81. Her passing allows for renewed perspectives on her life, which was propelled by revolutionary action during apartheid that would become later be marred in a series of scandals.
As The Guardian reported, Mandela was frequently painted in a negative light in the West, in contrast to a deep and long-lasting love in her home country of South Africa. During her husband Nelson Mandela’s 27-year prison term, Madikizela-Mandela fearlessly protested for his release as well as the rights of Black South Africans in general, which earned her a large personal following. She was also tortured and put under house arrest, surveilled and banished to a remote town in another province in 1977.
The biggest stain to her historical reputation came in 1989, when she was found guilty of ordering the kidnapping of 14 year old Stompie Seipei, known as Stompie Moeketsi, who was beaten and had his throat slit by some of her bodyguards.
After apartheid finally concluded, Madikizela-Mandela was called by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission to testify about her part in abductions and murders carried out in her name, for which she refused to apologize. Archbishop Desmond Tutu could only manage to coax a “things went horribly wrong” from her, which was as far as she went towards remorse.
Winnie Madikizela-Mandela and Nelson Mandela split in 1992, and following accusations of corruption, he removed her from his cabinet in 1995. They officially divorced in 1996. Madikizela-Mandela’s funeral will be held on April 14th, three days after an official memorial service.