Winnie Madikizela-Mandela died on Monday after being ill for a number of months. Picture: Phando Jikelo/African News Agency

Johannesburg - The National House of Traditional Leaders says it has learned of the passing of Nomzamo Winifred Madikizela-Mandela with "a profound sense of loss and deep sadness". 

In a statement late on Tuesday the Institution of Traditional Leadership said it holds the late Madikizela-Mandela in high esteem as the freedom fighter, icon and stalwart of the anti-apartheid struggle. 

"The House values many things she did as the servant of the people. She fought valiantly against apartheid and sacrificed her life for the freedom of the people. She also championed gender equality," said the statement.

Madikizela-Mandela passed away on Monday. She had been hospitalised at the weekend.

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Since then messages of condolence from South Africa and elsewhere continue to be recorded for the fallen icon. Flags are flying at half mast in South Africa and embassies abroad.

Traditional leaders said in their statement that Madikizela-Mandela "dedicated most of her adult life to the freedom of the people and for this was known far and wide as the mother of the nation, apart from that she was very passionate of cultural issues". 

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The statement added: "The Institution of Traditional Leadership will surely miss her, as she was also part of the Institution through the Congress of Traditional Leaders of South Africa. 

"The House thus, on behalf of all traditional leaders in the country, wishes to convey words of sympathy and deepest condolences to the bereaved family, the Mvezo Traditional Council, the African National Congress (ANC), Congress of Traditional Leaders of South Africa, the government of the Republic of South Africa, and the people of South Africa in general."

The struggle icon will be laid to rest next Saturday, 14 April.

African News Agency/ANA