“Robben Island Museum (RIM) is deeply saddened by the passing of the struggle stalwart Winnie Madikizela-Mandela on Monday, 2nd April 2018,” says Mava Dada, Chief Executive Officer at Robben Island Museum (RIM). Known for her role against apartheid, including supporting her husband, the late Nelson Mandela, during the struggle, Winne Madikezela-Mandela was the voice of the voiceless, and shall remain as an epitome of women who played a sacrificial role during the struggle.

Nomzamo Winifred Zanyiwe Madikizela was born on 26 September 1936 in Bizana, Pondoland, the fifth child of nine children. Her teacher parents valued education and by 1956 she had earned a degree in social work and was soon appointed as the first black female medical social worker at Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital in Soweto. Having developed her own political consciousness, she became further involved in social activism once she moved to Johannesburg and witnessed the extent of poverty, oppression and inequality meted out by the Apartheid regime.

Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, married Nelson Mandela in 1958 and faced the brunt of apartheid. As a result, she became a strong activist in her own right and fought the atrocious apartheid system without fear. Her role cannot be complete without understanding her footprint at Robben Island where her late husband was serving a life sentence. Being a wife of an anti-apartheid activist like Nelson Mandela, and being an activist herself meant she would not be spared the tribulation all visitors to the island went through. She endured heavily censored communication, monitored movements by intelligence units and non-physical contact with her late husband, whenever she visited the island. Despite this experience, including detentions, intimidations, arrests and incarceration, she remained resolute, defiant and a loving wife, mother and activist with a mission; freeing the voiceless and attaining democracy in South Africa.

Speaking of her life she said, “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.”

“Ma Winne was always brave and defiant,” said Dada, speaking on behalf of RIM. “Her political contribution to South Africa is vast and she remained active well into our new democracy.” Madikizela-Mandela served as Deputy Minister of Arts and Culture, President of the ANC Women’s League and as a member of the NEC of the ANC.

“As we say goodbye to this African liberation hero, our mother of the nation, we are grateful for the sacrifices she made and will continue honouring her memory as we preserve South African stories of liberation at Robben Island Museum. We extend our condolences and heartfelt sympathies to the Madikizela and Mandela families and wish them all strength and comfort during this time of mourning,” concludes Dada.