Winnie Madikizela-Mandela was born on 26 September 1936 in Bizana, South Africa and died on April 2, 2018, at the age of 81. She was an activist and politician who have held several government positions and she headed the African National Congress Women’s League. She was married to Nelson Mandela for 38 years, including the 27 years he was imprisoned. Even though they were still married at the time of Nelson Mandela’s presidency in 1994, they were separated for two years. On 13 March 1996, their divorce was finalised but Winnie Mandela continued to be present in Nelson Mandela’s life even though he remarried in 1998.
She was one of the major figures who came to global prominence during the South African liberation struggle. She seemed very comfortable with celebrity culture and for many years prior to Nelson Mandela’s release from prison, she was a public face that gave voice to Nelson Mandela’s thoughts and his state of mind. She was also offered academic honours abroad.
Winnie remained popular among her supporters and they refer to her as the “Mother of the Nation.” She was also reviled by others after the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) found that she had personally been responsible for the murder, torture, abduction and assault of numerous men, women and children and she was indirectly responsible for an even larger number of these crimes.
On 24 April 2003, Winnie Mandela was found guilty on 43 counts of fraud and 25 counts of theft. Her broker, Addy Moolman was convicted on 58 counts of fraud and 25 counts of theft. Both of them had pleaded not guilty to charges. All of these charges are related to money taken to lean applicants’ accounts for a funder fund, from which the applicants did not benefit from. Winnie Mandela was sentenced to five years in prison. After her conviction, she resigned from all of her leadership positions in the ANC. In July 2004, an appeal judge of the Pretoria High Court ruled the following: ”the crimes were not committed for personal gain”. The conviction for theft was overturned but the one for fraud was upheld, giving her a three years and six months suspended sentence.
In June 2007, the Canadian High Commission in South Africa declined to grant Winnie Mandela a visa to travel to Toronto, Canada. She was scheduled to attend a gala fundraising concert organised by MusicaNoir, which is an arts organisation. This included a word premiere of “The Passion of Winnie,” opera based on her life.