Winnie Mandela

Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, politician and former wife of Nelson Mandela, is a controversial anti-Apartheid activist.

In 1955, Winnie Mandela earned her degree in Social Work and began work at a local hospital in Johannesburg. It was there, seeing the dilapidated standards most black South Africans endured, that she became involved in politics.

In 1957, Madikizela-Mandela joined the African National Congress (ANC) and met her future husband Nelson Mandela. The couple married in 1958 and had two daughters together, Zenanu and Zinzi, but were soon forced into separation when Mandela was sentenced to life in prison.

Throughout her husband’s incarceration Madikizela-Mandela provided a powerful voice for women during the Apartheid resistance. Like her contemporaries, she was often harassed by the government but remained strong throughout.

Though admired by many as the Mother of the Nation, Madikizela-Mandela was not loved by all. She was criticized for her violent rhetoric but her reputation truly became soiled when her bodyguards murdered a fourteen year-old boy. Her life became connected with scandal and controversy which caused many anti-Apartheid resisters to disassociate themselves from her.

After her husband’s release in 1994 the couple separated. Though they were married 38 years, only five of them were spent together and they divorced in 1996.

Even after her death in 2018, Winnie Mandela remains a polarizing figure in African politics. To some she represents the fighting spirit of the county, but to others she remains a sad reminder that the once beloved heroine of the anti-Apartheid struggle used political power for her own gain.