Winnie Madikizela-Mandela acknowledges a toast at her 78th birthday at her home in Vilakazi Street, Soweto. File picture: Paballo Thekiso

Johannesburg - The ANC on Monday described Winnie Madikizela Mandela as a "colossus" of the Southern African political landscape following her death at age 81 earlier in the afternoon.

South African Cabinet Minister Jeff Radebe read out a statement from the family, describing her commitment and dedication to the African National Congress (ANC), the liberation movement turned ruling party.

"Mama Madikizela Mandela was identified by the masses of our people as Mother of the Nation. This was in recognition of her fearless and uncompromising stand she took against the might of the Apartheid regime," Radebe said at a media briefing at the Netcare Milpark hospital in Johannesburg where uMama Winnie died.

"As the ANC we dip our revolutionary banner in salute of this great icon of our liberation struggle." 

Winnie Madikizela-Mandela was perhaps the best-known South African during the Struggle against apartheid, after her erstwhile husband Nelson Mandela. Picture: Independent Media Archives

ANC chairman Gwede Mantashe during the same media briefing paid tribute to Madikizela Mandela and said the organisation and its leaders would miss her candour.

"With the departur of uMama Winnie, one of the very few who are left in our stalwarts of the struggle, she's one of those who would tell us exactly what was wrong or what is right at any time," said Mantashe.

He said President Cyril Ramaphosa would be visiting the family home.

"The President will be visiting the family home this evening and I imagine he will make a comment there," said Mantashe.

Details of the memorial service and funeral would be communicated by the family, the ANC and the South African government once they had been finalised.

African News Agency/ANA