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Winnie Mandela Dies at 81

FILE - In this Feb. 11, 1990 file photo, Nelson Mandela and his wife, Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, raise clenched fists as they walk hand-in-hand upon his release from prison in Cape Town, South Africa. (AP Photo/Greg English, File)
Winnie Mandela Dies at 81
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Winnie Madikizela-Mandela died on Monday after a long illness. Her family said she was 81.

She was the former wife of former South African President Nelson Mandela. The two were known for their fight against South Africa’s rule of separating people by race, known as apartheid. The rule effectively permitted the white minority to rule over the black majority in South Africa for many years.

Madikizela-Mandela was married to Mandela from 1958 to 1996. Mandela, who died in 2013, was imprisoned throughout most of their marriage.

For years, she fought for his release and for the rights of black South Africans. Her own fight against white minority rule also led to months in prison and years of house arrest.

On February 11, 1990, she walked hand in hand with her husband out of the Cape Town prison where he was kept for 27 years. The two punched the air victoriously with the clenched-fist sign of black power.

Four years later, Nelson Mandela became South Africa’s first black president. Winnie Madikizela-Mandela became known as the mother of the new South Africa.

In a statement, her family said, “She kept the memory of her imprisoned husband Nelson Mandela alive during his years on Robben Island and helped give the struggle for justice in South Africa one its most recognizable faces.”

However, Madikizela-Mandela’s legacy was ruined when she was found guilty of kidnapping and assault in 1991. The crimes were against a 14-year-old suspected of being an informer.

She and Mandela separated in 1992. Mandela also removed her from his cabinet in 1995 after accusations of corruption. The couple divorced a year later, after which she took the name Madikizela-Mandela.

Hai Do adapted this story for Learning English based on AP and Reuters news reports. Mario Ritter was the editor.

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Words in This Story

apartheid –n. a policy of racial separation that existed in South Africa until 1994

punch –v. to hit out

clenched –adj. held in a tightly closed position

legacy –n. something that happened in the past that is remembered and carried forward

divorced –adj. having gone through a divorce or legal end to a marriage