Winnie Madikizela-Mandela was the second wife to the iconic Nelson Mandela and is still is a political power in South Africa in her own right. She was quite the potent symbol of the anti-apartheid struggle for nearly three decades, but her reputation became tainted later on by a fraud conviction and murder accusations, which although she denied, has worked to make her one of the most controversial political figures in the country.

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She got married to Mandela in 1956, a year when the agitations for his incarceration were already at a peak (he had in fact already been arrested for treason and was awaiting trial) and they had two children together. By 1962, he was arrested for sabotage for what was to be a five year sentence but became a 27 year stint when the Rivonia trial began and the defendants earned a life sentence. She was there with him the day that he was released, and together, they were both overwhelmed by the reception of the people who widely celebrated Mandela’s release and they were for a while the most celebrated political couple in South Africa.

Winnie Mandela-Madikizela

The two had a 38 year long marriage but she was divorced from the late Mandela in 1996 over political and personal differences and rumors of her infidelity. When he was admitted to a hospital with a recurring lung infection in June 2013, she visited him frequently and featured prominently in the celebrations to mark his 95th birthday the next month. Critics had accused her of behaving like she was still his wife for the sake of political mileage.

After Mandela divorced Ms Madikizela-Mandela, he had left her out of his will and after his death in 2013, she argued that the house in Qunu village, where Mandela had spent most of his time belonged to her under customary law. Mandela had however bequeathed the home to his family and a High Court has today dismissed Madikizela-Mandela’s application and ordered that she pay all legal costs.

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