Africa Leaders Magazine

Winnie Madikizela-Mandela – Mother of the Nation (South Africa)

Winnie Madikizela-Mandela - Mother of the Nation (South Africa) -African Leaders Magazine

Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, a controversial figure who served as a spearhead of South Africa’s anti-apartheid movement during husband and future president Nelson Mandela’s long imprisonment. As the best-known face in the fight against white rule while Mandela languished in prison for 27 years, Madikizela-Mandela was considered the “mother of the nation.” Still serving in Parliament, she was a longtime figure in the African National Congress (ANC), which changed from an insurgent group to South Africa’s ruling party after apartheid’s end in 1991.

Winnie Madikizela-Mandela - Mother of the Nation South Africa - African Leaders Magazine

She was admired for her tireless campaign for racial equality, as well as for women’s advancement, helping set the stage for Mandela to become South Africa’s first black president in 1994. She endured harassment, arrests and several rounds of incarceration for her activism. Arrested in 1969 for alleged terrorism, she spent 18 months in solitary confinement. Yet she grew into a polarizing figure. Her unrepentant tactics of rebellion grew to clash with her husband’s drive for reconciliation, democracy and peace.

Two years after Nelson Mandela’s 1990 release from prison, the couple split up after having two daughters together. They divorced in 1996, two years after he became president. He retired in 1999 and died in December 2013.


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