Winnie Madikizela Mandela: Education, Career, Husband and Family, Controversy, Death

Winnie Madikizela Mandela
South African anti-apartheid activist, politician, and philanthropist, Winnie Madikizela Mandela


Winnie Mandela was born on September 26, 1936, in Bizana, a rural village in the Transkei district of South Africa. She was a South African anti-apartheid activist, politician, and philanthropist.

Madikizela Mandela was married to South African President Nelson Mandela from 1958 until their divorce in 1996.

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Interesting facts about Winnie Mandela

  • Place of birth: Bizana, a rural village in the Transkei district of South Africa.
  • Date of birth: September 26, 1936
  • Year of death: April 2, 2018
  • Age at death: 81
  • Full name: Winnie Madikizela Mandela
  • Popular name: Winnie Mandela
  • Husband: The late Nelson Mandela
  • Career: Anti-apartheid activist and politician
  • Children: Yes

Winnie Mandela Education

Winnie Mandela moved to Johannesburg in 1953 to study at the Jan Hofmeyr School of Social Work. At the time South Africa was under the apartheid system. Citizens of Indigenous African descent were subjected to a harsh caste system. However, European descendants enjoyed much higher levels of wealth, health, and social freedom.

After completing her studies, she got a scholarship to study in America but instead choose to work as the first Black medical social worker at Baragwanath Hospital in Johannesburg.

Additionally, she also studied Law at the University of Witwatersrand.

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Winnie Madikizela Mandela Career

Winnie Madikizela Mandela became involved in the anti-apartheid movement at a young age. In the late 1950s, she joined the African National Congress (ANC), a political party that was fighting against the segregationist policies of the South African government.

When Nelson Mandela was sentenced to life imprisonment in 1964, she was left alone to raise their two small daughters, Zenani and Zindzi, on her own.

That, however, did not deter her from continuing the fight to end apartheid, she was involved surreptitiously with the ANC and sent her children to boarding school in Swaziland to offer them a more peaceful upbringing.

The government kept a keen eye on her and was arrested under the Suspicion of Terrorism Act and spent more than a year in solitary confinement, where she was tortured. Upon her release, she continued her
activism and was jailed several more times.

In 1967 following the Soweto uprising which saw hundreds of students killed, she was forced by the government to relocate to the border town of Brand fort and placed under house arrest.

After Mandela was released from prison in 1990, Madikizela Mandela remained an active and influential figure in South African politics. She served as a member of parliament and was involved in various charitable and social justice initiatives.

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Madikizela Mandela Husband and Family

In 1958 Winnie met attorney Nelson, who, at the time, was the leader of the African National Congress, an organization to end South Africa’s apartheid system of racial segregation. The two married in June 1958, despite concerns from Winnie’s father over the couple’s age difference and Nelson’s steadfast
political involvement.

After the wedding, Winnie moved into Nelson’s home in Soweto. She became legally known thereafter as Winnie Madikizela-Mandela.

Controversy and contribution to democracy

Through a complex mix of domestic political maneuvering and international outrage, Nelson was freed in 1990, after 27 years of imprisonment. The years of separation and tremendous social turmoil had irrevocably damaged the Mandela marriage. However, and the two separated in 1992.

Before that, Winnie was convicted of kidnapping and assaulting Moeketsi. After an appeal, her six-year sentence was ultimately reduced to a fine.

Even with her conviction, Winnie was elected president of the ANC’s Women’s League. Then, in 1994, Nelson won the presidential election, becoming South Africa’s first Black president.

Winnie was subsequently named deputy minister of arts, culture, science, and technology. However, due to affiliations and rhetoric seen as highly radical, she was ousted from her cabinet post by her
husband in 1995.

The couple divorced in 1996, having spent a few years together out of almost four decades of marriage.

Winnie appeared before the nation’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission in 1997 and was found responsible for gross violations of human rights in connection to the killings and tortures implemented by her bodyguards.

While ANC leaders kept their political distance, Winnie still retained a majority following. She was re-elected to Parliament in 1999, only to be convicted of economic fraud in 2003.

Madikizela Mandela quickly resigned from her post, though her conviction was later overturned.

In a 2010 Evening Standard interview, Winnie sharply criticized Archbishop Desmond Tutu and her ex-husband, disparaging Nelson’s decision to accept the Nobel Peace Prize with former South African President F.W. de Klerk.Winnie later denied making the statements. 

In 2012, one year before her husband’s death, the British press published an email composed by Winnie, in which she criticized the ANC for its general treatment of the Mandela clan.

Winnie Madikizela Mandela illness and Death

Winnie Mandela passed away on April 2, 2018, aged 81, in Johannesburg following a kidney infection after she had visited several hospitals.

She is forever remembered for her role in ending South Africa’s oppressive policies. She remained a beloved and revered figure in South Africa and around the world.

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Frequent Questions about Winnie Mandela

Is Winnie Mandela still alive?

No. Winnie died on April 2, 2018, at the age of 81 after a long-term illness

What did Winnie Mandela fight for?

Winnie for equal treatment for all South African citizen. She fought against apartheid rule in South Africa.

Where did Winnie Mandela attend school?

Winnie Mandela moved to Johannesburg in 1953 to study at the Jan Hofmeyr School of Social Work.

Winnie Mandela net worth

Information about her net worth will be updates as soon as we aggregated it.