Winnie Nomzamo Mandela graduated from Wits in 2005. Picture: Neo Ntsoma
Cape Town -  Parliamentary officials have added their messages of condolenes to those mourning the death of ANC stalwart and anti-apartheid activist Nomzamo Winifred Madikizela-Mandela who died at the age of 81. 

National Assembly speaker Baleka Mbete and National Council of Provinces chairwoman Thandi Modise praised the struggle veteran as “one of the pioneer members of Parliament and our parliamentary democracy”. 

“Her vibrancy, unending inner and outer beauty, her passionate connection with ordinary citizens, and her witty and critical mind had contributed in keeping the critical solidarity of the women of South Africa in every facet of life,” they said. 

The Mother of the Nation, as she was affectionately known, died peacefully after a long illness on Monday. 

The family’s spokesperson Victor Dlamini said Mrs Mandela "succumbed peacefully in the early hours of Monday afternoon surrounded by her family and loved ones" following a long illness.

Madikizela Mandela was born in Bizana in the Eastern Cape in 1936 and later moved to Johannesburg to study social work after matriculating. She met the late Nelson Mandela, former president president in 1957 whom he married in 1958.

The couple had two children during their short lived marriage, which was interrupted by Mandela’s arrest in 1963. 

They divorced in 1996 amid rumours that Winnie Mandela had an affair. 

Winnie has served as deputy minister for arts and culture, and a member of Parliament. She has also served as chairwoman of the Southern Transvaal region of the SA National Civic Organisation. 

In a media statement, Mbete and Modise said: “She (Madikizela Mandela) defied the repressive laws and associated patriarchy, embodied a brave character of an unflinching woman in the wake of all odds against her throughout her life. She was a solid rock, a defender of the vulnerable and defenceless”.

Retired archbishop and Nobel laureate Desmond Tutu praised her as a "defining symbol of the struggle against apartheid".

"Her courageous defiance was deeply inspirational to me, and to generations of activists," he added.

The ANC women’s league has also sent its heartfelt messages of condolences to Winnie’s family, and that of Mandela. 

Notable political figures have also taken to social media to express their heartfelt condolences.

Minister in the Presidency Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma has also weighed in to pour condolences to the struggle stalwart. 

Political Bureau