Winnie Madikizela-Mandela waves as she attends the 54th ANC National Conference in Johannesburg late last year. Mujahid Safodien/AFP/Getty Images

IRD Salutes Mama Winnie Mandela 

Mother of Free South Africa

Born: September 26, 1936, Bizana, Eastern Cape, South Africa

Died: April 2, 2018, Milpark Hospital, Johannesburg, South Africa


During her visit to Jamaica in 1992 with her husband Nelson, Winnie Mandela spoke to a group of Jamaican women about Reggae music's power through the works of Marley, Tosh, Cliff and others, to inspire South Africa's people in the face of the oppressive Apartheid regime. 

She served as a Member of Parliament from 1994 to 2003, and from 2009 until her death, and was a deputy minister from 1994 to 1996. A member of the African National Congress (ANC) political party, she served on the ANC's National Executive Committee and headed its Women's League. Madikizela-Mandela was known to her supporters as the "Mother of the Nation".

Born to a Mpondo family in Bizana, and a qualified social worker, she married anti-apartheid activist Nelson Mandela in Johannesburg in 1958; they remained married for 38 years and had two children together. In 1963, after Mandela was imprisoned following the Rivonia Trial; she became his public face during the 27 years he spent in jail. During that period, she rose to prominence within the domestic anti-apartheid movement. She was detained by apartheid state security services on various occasions, tortured subjected to banning orders, banished to a rural town, and spent several months in solitary confinement.