Anti-apartheid activist Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, wife to Nelson Mandela during his decades of imprisonment, died on Monday, a family spokesman said.
It is the falling of a great tree, one of those who kept the Apartheid machine on its toes.
California congresswoman Maxine Waters shared the feeling of millions around the world following the death of Winnie Mandela on Monday. "None of us had predicted this", a family spokesman told United States outlet CNN.
She stayed married to the future President throughout his 27 years in prison, becoming one of the most prominent opponents of apartheid during the final years before his release in 1990.
ANC members gather outside Winnie Madikizela-Mandela's house on Monday (April 2 2018).
Although the attention that February 11 was on the man who would eventually become president of South Africa as he emerged from Pollsmoor Prison and took the long walk home, Winnie Mandela exerted her influence and prowess.
In the midst of repression, she was a voice of defiance and resistance, he said. "In the face of exploitation, she was a champion of justice and equality".
Madikizela-Mandela will be given a state funeral at a stadium in Soweto on April 14, President Cyril Ramaphosa's office said in a statement declaring national days of mourning between April 3 and 14.
But although she became an worldwide symbol for the anti-apartheid struggle, there was a dark side to her campaign.
The 22-year-old Winnie caught the eye of Mandela at a Soweto bus-stop in 1957, starting a whirlwind romance that led to their marriage a year later.
Winnie always denied the allegation, and the six-year prison term she received was reduced to a fine and suspended sentence on appeal.
African Commission chairman Moussa Faki Mahamat also paid tribute to Winnie Mandela, saying "the continent and beyond" were in grief at her passing.
In 1986, she was widely linked to "necklacing", the burning alive of suspected traitors who had flaming, petrol-soaked tyres forced over their heads.
Few ordinary South Africans focused on the darker chapters of her past, including a conviction for kidnapping and assaulting an activist found with his throat cut near her Soweto home.
They failed and she became a symbol of the worldwide campaign against apartheid.
Ms Madikizela-Mandela "deserves the highest respect our nation can demonstrate in honour of a patriot and citizen who served our nation and humanity at large with distinction during our liberation struggle and throughout our democratic dispensation", Ramaphosa said.
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