South African anti-apartheid icon Winnie Madikizela-Mandela died peacefully on Monday following a long illness, a family spokesman said.
“She died after a long illness, for which she had been in and out of hospital since the start of the year,” Victor Dlamini said in a statement.
“She succumbed peacefully in the early hours of Monday afternoon surrounded by her family and loved ones.”
In January, she was admitted to hospital with a kidney infection and exhaustion.
In October, Madikizela-Mandela, who was the former wife of South Africa’s first black president, Nelson Mandela. underwent a procedure on her knee.
They were married for a total of 38 years, although for almost three decades of that time they were separated due to Mandela’s imprisonment.
It was Madikizela-Mandela who took his baton after he was jailed for life, becoming an international symbol of resistance to apartheid. She too was jailed for her role in the fight for justice and equality.
Retired archbishop and Nobel laureate Desmond Tutu praised her as a “defining symbol of the struggle against apartheid”.
“Her courageous defiance was deeply inspirational to me, and to generations of activists,” he added.
African National Congress (ANC) chairperson Gwede Mantashe said: “With the departure of Mama Winnie, [we have lost] one of the very few who are left of our stalwarts and icons. She was one of those who would tell us exactly what is wrong and right, and we are going to be missing that guidance.”
Adira Kallo with agency report