In this March 5, 1986 file photo Winnie Mandela mourns the death of 17 black activists at a funeral service held in Johannesburg. File picture: Greg English/AP

In the long struggle against apartheid few people fought harder than Winnie Madikizela-Mandela against a system that sought to diminish the dignity of millions of South Africans simply because of their skin colour.

Not even the Father of our Democracy, Nelson Mandela, had to go through what she did – the threats, the detention without trial, the torture, and the trumped-up charges.

But not once did she flinch.

She was willing to sacrifice her life for the freedom of her compatriots.

Those of us who continue to dream of a South Africa in which every citizen enjoys equal political and economic rights, must never forget these sacrifices.

We must never forget how, on a freezing winter‘s night, just before dawn on 12 May 1969, security police stormed her Soweto home and detained her in the presence of her daughters, 10-year-old Zenani and 9-year-old Zindzi.

We must never forget how she was held under Section 6 of the Terrorism Act, which allowed the security to hold detainees for as long as they wished for purposes of interrogation.

In a 491-day period of detention and two trials, she was severely tortured. But her interrogators could not break her. On 14 September 1970, she was acquitted.

On 16 May, 1977, Madikizela-Mandela, who was banned almost continuously for 19 years, was banished to a house in Brandfort in the Free State, which had no electricity, no running water, no stove and no bath.

In terms of her banning order, she could not attend any "gatherings", which was defined by the state as being in the company of more than two people.

On one occasion she was indeed charged with breaking her banning order – for being with a nine-month-old baby and a 2-year-old child.

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Although she was described as a controversial and divisive figure at times, Madikizela-Mandela will always be remembered as a brave an unflinching fighter against the apartheid security apparatus that sought to destroy her and all she stood for and held dear.

In a 2011 biopic on Winnie, Jennifer Hudson, who played her, sang:

"Would you bleed for love? Would you bleed for love? Would you lay down your life? Would you give it all?"

There is no doubt that Madikizela-Mandela bled for both love and freedom.

Hamba Kahle, Ma Winnie.