Speed Reads


'Mother of the Nation' Winnie Madikizela-Mandela dies at 81

South African anti-apartheid activist Winnie Madikizela-Mandela has died at the age of 81 after "a long illness," a family spokesperson said Monday.

The ex-wife of Nelson Mandela, who was the first democratically elected president of South Africa, Madikizela-Mandela was known as "the Mother of the Nation." The Guardian writes that "her uncompromising methods and refusal to forgive contrasted sharply with the reconciliation espoused by her husband," and that their 1992 divorce ultimately tarnished her reputation in the eyes of some South Africans, although she "retained the support of radical black nationalists to the end."

She faced convictions and allegations ranging from corruption to murder over the course of her career. In a 1996 American University speech, she recalled: "I learned to deal with the police ... to be tough ... to survive." Learn more about Madikizela-Mandela in a video made on the occasion of her 80th birthday in 2016 below. Jeva Lange