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Anti-apartheid icon Nelson Mandela's ex-wife Winnie Mandela dies

Uncompromising opponent of racial-segregation system maintained ties with Nelson Mandela despite their divorce in 1996.

Winnie Mandela

Winnie Mandela, the ex-wife of the late South African anti-apartheid icon Nelson Mandela, has died at the age of 81.

A veteran herself of the anti-apartheid struggle, Winnie Mandela died on Monday afternoon, her personal assistant said.

"She died after a long illness, for which she had been in and out of hospital since the start of the year," Victor Dlamini, a family spokesperson, said in a statement on Monday.

"She succumbed peacefully in the early hours of Monday afternoon surrounded by her family and loved ones."

Born in the Eastern Cape's Bizana town in 1936, Nomzamo Winifred Madikizela moved to Johannesburg in 1953 to pursue studies in social work before meeting Nelson Mandela, her future husband who was then an anti-apartheid campaigner.

Winnie Mandela developed a reputation as an uncompromising opponent of the then-predominant racial segregation system.

Winnie Mandela was married to Nelson Mandela from 1958 to 1996, although for almost three decades of that time they were separated due to his imprisonment.

Despite their separation two years after his release in 1990, and their divorce in 1996, she kept his surname and maintained ties with him.

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