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Winnie Madikizela-Mandela

The Order of Luthuli in

Winnie Madikizela-Mandela Awarded for:
Her excellent contribution to the fight for the liberation of the people of South Africa. She bravely withstood constant harassment by the apartheid police and challenged their brutality at every turn.

Profile of Ms Winnie Madikizela-Mandela

Ms Winnie Madikizela-Mandela is a woman of substance, a mother of the nation and undisputed heroine of the Struggle. She was born on 26 September 1936 in Bizana in the then Transkei (now called Eastern Cape).

She received her primary education in Bizana where she did her junior certificate at Mfundisweni Secondary School and later completed her matric at Shawbury High School.

In 1956 Madikizela-Mandela completed a Diploma in Social Work at the Jan Hofmeyr School of Social Work in Johannesburg. In the midst of her harassment by the apartheid government in the late 1980s, she completed a Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science, majoring in International Relations, at the University of the Witwatersrand.

Madikizela-Mandela’s involvement in the South African liberation struggle dates to the 50s. Her first detention was in 1958 and it coincided with the mass arrest of women involved in the anti-pass campaign. At the time, she was the chairperson of the Orlando West branch of both the African National Congress (ANC) and the ANC Women’s League.

She received the first of several banning orders in 1962 which restricted her to Soweto. Five years later she was arrested in Cape Town – while on a visit to her former husband Nelson Mandela, who was imprisoned for 27 years on Robben Island – and sentenced to one month in prison.

In 1969 Madikizela-Mandela became one of the first detainees under Section 6 of the notorious Terrorism Act of 1967. She was detained for 18 months in solitary confinement in a condemned cell at the Pretoria Central Prison before being charged under the Suppression of Communism Act of 1950.

After initially being found guilty in the famous “Trial of 22” that took place in 1970, Madikizela-Mandela was discharged on appeal. She was imprisoned in Kroonstad along with her friend Dorothy Nyembe until September 1975.

In 1976, she was actively involved in organising young people to oppose Bantu Education. Following the 1976 Soweto youth uprising, she served six months at “Number Four” (The Fort Prison). On 16 May 1977, Madikizela-Mandela was taken directly from her cell to Brandfort in the Free State, where she was banished for nine years. Her house in Brandfort was bombed twice.

Following the attainment of democracy in 1994, Madikizela-Mandela became a Member of Parliament and Deputy Minister of Arts and Culture. Upon leaving Cabinet and Parliament, she dedicated her energy on working with different communities, especially people affected by HIV and AIDS, and poverty.

The life of Madikizela-Mandela encompasses commitment to community upliftment, opposition to apartheid and determination to build a non-racist, non-sexist and democratic South Africa. Her courage and leadership abilities have triumphed over years of political harassment, personal pain and a wave of media controversy.