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Winnie Mandela, South Africa's first black First Lady, dies

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WInnie Madikizela-Mandela

Winnie Mandela’s family confirmed her death in a statement today. Mandela was a key figure in the fight to end the racist apartheid system in South Africa. She was married to Nelson Mandela during his 27-year incarceration. 

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Nelson and Winnie Mandela

Known as the “Mother of the Nation”, Winnie Madikizela-Mandela has passed away at the age of 81. Her family said in a statement that she died at the Netcare Milpark Hospital in Johannesburg, South Africa after a long illness, for which she had been in and out of hospital since the start of the year.

"Mrs. Madikizela-Mandela was one of the greatest icons of the struggle against apartheid," the statement said. "She fought valiantly against the apartheid state and sacrificed her life for the freedom of the country." She was married to Nelson Mandela for 38 years, including the 27 years he was imprisoned on an island near Cape Town. 

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Winnie Madikizela-Mandela

Madikizela-Mandela was a key figure in the fight to end the racist apartheid system in South Africa. Nelson and Winnie Mandela divorced in 1996.  They had two children together. Her political activism was blemished by her conviction in 1991 for kidnapping and assault, for which she was fined. She faced these allegations again during the 1997 hearings before the truth and reconciliation commission, a panel that investigated apartheid-era crimes. In January 31 post on Facebook,  Madikizela-Mandela wrote. “I am the product of the masses of my country and the product of my enemy."  

As a parliamentarian after South Africa's first all-race elections, she was convicted of fraud. Madikizela-Mandela had been in and out of hospital since the start of the year. According to her family, the anti-apartheid leader had been suffering various illnesses for years and was most recently admitted to a hospital for a kidney infection.  The family says they will release details of her memorial and funeral services when they are finalized. 

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Winnie Madikizela-Mandela