Winnie Madikizela-Mandela was a firebrand activist who fought the apartheid regime in South Africa. She was far more militant than South Africa’s first black president, her ex-husband Nelson Mandela. She also becamea critic of the African National Congress (ANC), the party to which she was fiercely loyal throughout her political life.
Here is a selection of some of her most compelling quotes.
On what prison did to her:
“The years of imprisonment hardened me… I no longer have the emotion of fear… There is no longer anything I can fear. There is nothing the government has not done to me. There isn’t any pain I haven’t known.”
The quote, in the book Lives of Courage: Women for a New South Africa, highlights the extent to which Mrs Madikizela-Mandela was brutalised by the apartheid regime.
She was imprisoned on numerous occasions from 1969, much of it spent in solitary confinement. In 1976, the year of the Soweto riots, she was banished from the township to a remote rural area. At one stage her house was burned down.
Mrs Madikizela-Mandela was a politician in her own right, and opposed her husband’s move to negotiate an end to apartheid, claiming it would lead to a “sell-out” of black people. Despite their differences, Mr Mandela appointed her as a deputy minister in his first government in 1994. He sacked her after a year, reinstated her when she successfully challenged his decision in court, and then sacked her again.
On how black people will achieve freedom:
“With our boxes of matches and our necklaces we will liberate this country.”
The comment, at a rally in Johannesburg, signalled that Mrs Mandikizela-Mandela had endorsed the brutal method of “necklacing” – putting a tyre around suspected collaborators, dousing them with petrol, and burning them alive.
It caused shock around the world, and tainted the image of the ANC. The comment was condemned, including by South Africa’s Nobel Peace laureate Archbishop Desmond Tutu (above).
On loving Nelson Mandela:
“I had so little time to love him. And that love has survived all these years of separation… perhaps if I’d had time to know him better I might have found a lot of faults, but I only had time to love him and long for him all the time.”
Nelson and Winnie Mandela were the most celebrated political couple in South Africa. Hailed as the “mother of the nation”, she kept the name of her husband alive during his 27 in prison. She was a young social worker when she married Mr Mandela, then already a prominent ANC leader, in 1958. He was sentenced to life in prison in 1961 for his role in fighting apartheid.
On why she kept the Mandela name after their divorce:
“I am a product of the masses of my country. I am the product of my enemy.”
The couple divorced in 1996, two years after Mr Mandela became South Africa’s first black president. The years apart took its toll on their marriage, and Mrs Madikizela-Mandela was also accused of having an extra-marital affair. She kept his surname in what critics saw as an attempt to continue trading on the Mandela brand.
“The overwhelming majority of women accept patriarchy unquestioningly and even protect it, working out the resultant frustrations not against men but against themselves in their competition for men as sons, lovers and husbands. Traditionally the violated wife bides her time and off-loads her built-in aggression on her daughter-in-law. So men dominate women through the agency of women themselves.”
Mrs Madikizela-Mandela was hailed by her supporters as a feminist icon. She became the leader of the women’s wing of the ANC after its unbanning in 1990, and believed that black women suffered from “a triple yoke of oppression” – their sex, colour and class.
On the ANC in government:
“I believe something is very wrong with the history of our country, and how we have messed up the African National Congress.”
In the latter years of her life, Mrs Madikizela-Mandela became deeply disillusioned with the ANC – the former liberation movement which took power in 1994 – because of the corruption and in-fighting in its ranks. But she remained loyal to the party, and appeared to endorse Cyril Ramaphosa when he replaced the scandal-hit Jacob Zuma as president earlier this year.