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Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, the former wife of Nelson Mandela, South Africa’s first black President, has died.
The South African anti-apartheid campaigner died early Monday in Johannesburg. She was 81.
Victor Dlamini, the family spokesman said in a statement Mrs Mandela “succumbed peacefully in the early hours of Monday afternoon surrounded by her family and loved ones”.
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Her long illness had seen her go in and out of hospital since the start of the year.
Local media quoted retired archbishop and Nobel laureate Desmond Tutu as praising her. He said she was a “defining symbol of the struggle against apartheid”.
“Her courageous defiance was deeply inspirational to me, and to generations of activists,” he added.
BBC recalled that “the couple – famously pictured hand-in-hand as Mr Mandela walked free from prison after 27 years – were a symbol of the anti-apartheid struggle for nearly three decades”.
However, in later years her reputation became tainted legally and politically.
According to The New York Times, her “hallowed place in the pantheon of South Africa’s liberators was eroded by scandal over corruption, kidnapping, murder and the adulterous implosion of her fabled marriage to Nelson Mandela”.