While the Christian world was still celebrating Easter on the 2nd of April, a rude and shocking information from South Africa broke on Nigeria News. After a long battle with illness, Winnie Mandela had died in a Johannesburg hospital.
To put it mildly, African and the world lost a living legend that was able to rise above her sex to leave a lasting legacy.
It is even remarkable when you consider that it is not an easy feat to move away from the shadow of Nelson Mandela, her ex-husband, Nobel Laureate, freedom fighter and former President of South Africa.
Unlike many women who would have been content to bath in the glow of her husband’s achievements, she was able to transcend all that. Her legacy all came through an unflinching determination to make life better for poor black folks in South Africa.
As a tribute to Winnie Mandela who died at the age of 81, below are some things you might not have known about her.
1. Her full name is a handful
Winnie Mandela’s maiden name is rather a handful. What the world has come to know as her first name is the shortened version of Winfreda.
Before she got married and shortened it to a more manageable version it was Nomzamo Winfreda Zanyiwe Madikizela.
2. Winnie was Nelson Mandela’s second wife
When Nelson Mandela married Graça Machel on his 80th birthday after his divorce from Winnie, many people thought Graça was the second wife.
Actually, Winnie was the second as Nelson Mandela married her after his first wife Evelyn left him in 1958.
3. She was in exile for many years
While her husband was in prison on Robben Island, Winnie Mandela was also a prisoner of sorts due to her political activism against the apartheid regime in her country.
She was exiled to Brandfort in Orange Free a state by the government. She was only allowed to leave if she wanted to visit her husband in prison.
Between 1969 and 1970 she spent 18 months in solitary confinement in Pretoria Central Prison as a result of her activism against apartheid.
5. Denied visa to Canada
At the age of 70, in 2007, she was denied an entry visa to Canada. In fact, she had already packed her bags to travel to the country when she got the message from the Canadian embassy in South Africa.
Her visit to the country was to attend an opera in the city of Toronto in celebration of her life. To say the least, the Canadian organizers of the gala were devastated. This would have been her second visit to Canada
6. Kidnapping, Murder trial and conviction.
Winnie Mandela was implicated in the kidnapping and subsequent murder of a 14 year old kid, Stompie Moekets in 1988.
It came out during the trial that her accomplices, on her instructions, kidnapped the boy because he was fingered as an informant for the government. She labeled him a traitor against blacks which sealed his fate.
She never served the prison term. Instead of jail term, she was ordered to pay a fine on appeal. It is likely the Canadians used this conviction to deny her a visa 19 years later
7. Arson attack
In 1988, her home was attacked and burnt down by some residents of Soweto. This was apparently in retaliation for the kidnap and murder of the 14-year-old Stompie.
8. She is no Robin Hood
This is a reference to what a judge told her during her trial for theft and fraud in 2003. After being found guilty of collecting bank loans on behalf of fictitious women, she claimed she used the money to help the poor women.
The judge reminded her she was not Robin Hood in reference to a fictional character who stole from the rich and shared it among the poor.
Though she was sentenced to five years in prison, she was allowed to walk free as the sentence was suspended on appeal by another judge who had a different view about the crime.
9. Winnie Mandela ladies in cinemas
Apart from numerous stage plays, five international movies have being made about the life and times of Winnie Mandela.
The first was a TV drama in 1997 known as ‘Mandela and de Klerk.’ Winnie was played by the actress Tina Lifford
The second was a series by BBC TV in 2010 called ‘Mrs. Mandela.’ Sophie Okonedo played the role of Winnie Mandela.
Her life with her husband was portrayed in ‘Mandela: A Long Walk to Freedom.’ Cambridge-educated actress, Naomie Harris played the role of Winnie alongside Idris Alba as her husband.
The fourth lady to play Winnie in a major movie was Jennifer Hudson in the 2011 movie ‘Winnie Mandela.;
And last year, Terry Pheto starred as Winnie Mandela alongside Laurence Fishburne in the movie titled ‘Madiba.’