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Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, the former wife of Nelson Mandela, the first Black president of South Africa, has died, according to a new report. She was 81 years old. The death of the former first lady of South Africa was reported by the BBC on Monday, but it was not immediately clear when exactly she died.

She “succumbed peacefully in the early hours of Monday afternoon surrounded by her family and loved ones,” Mandela spokesman Victor Dlamini said, according to the BBC which referenced “a long illness, which had seen her go in and out of hospital since the start of the year.”

Mandela had been admitted to a South Africa hospital for a kidney infection in late January, but her reps downplayed her condition and said she would recover. “Upon admission‚ it was discovered that she had an infection that had affected her kidneys,” Victor Dlamini, a spokesman for the Mandela family, said at the time. “She is expected to make a full recovery and should spend approximately a week at the hospital.”

The Mandelas divorced in 1996, but she kept her last name and the two were amicable following the split, according to the BBC.

When Nelson Mandela was sent to prison for his political activism in 1964, Winnie Mandela  “took on an increasingly political role, partly because of constant harassment by the South African security police,” the BBC reported. “She became an international symbol of resistance to apartheid and a rallying point for poor, black township residents who demanded their freedom.”

To mark the life of the woman who went on to be known as the “Mother of the Nation,” we have compiled several inspirational quotes that she said over the years:

“The years of imprisonment hardened me…. Perhaps if you have been given a moment to hold back and wait for the next blow, your emotions wouldn’t be blunted as they have been in my case. When it happens every day of your life, when that pain becomes a way of life, 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.”

“Together, hand in hand, with our matches and our necklaces, we shall liberate this country.”

“I am the product of the masses of my country and the product of my enemy.”

Winnie Mandela’s cause of death was not immediately announced.


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