Happy birthday Mam: A brief look at the life of Winnie Madikizela-Mandela

Happy birthday Mam: A brief look at the life of Winnie Madikizela-Mandela

On Wednesday, South Africans took to social media to share happy birthday messages to the late struggle icon, Ma Winnie Madikizela-Mandela.

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On 26 September 2018, Ma Winnie would have celebrated her 82nd birthday. Sadly she passed away earlier this year, where she was laid to rest at the Fourways Memorial Park Cemetery.

However, her death did not stop South Africans from celebrating her life and what she meant for the country on her birthday.

So, Briefly.co.za decided to take a brief look at the life of Ma Winnie.

Early life

Ma Winnie was born in the Eastern Cape in the village of Mbongweni to Columbus and Gertrude. The inspirational woman was given the Xhosa name 'Nomzamo', which Wikipedia translated to "She who tries".

Both her parents were teachers and her dad ended up as the headmaster. However, Ma Winnie's mom passed away when she was just nine-years-old.


Nelson Mandela's ex-wife went on to study social sciences at the Jan Hofmeyr School of Social Work, where she graduated with a degree in 1956.

She later went on to pursue a degree in international relations from Wits.

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Becoming Mrs Mandela

Winnie and Mandela met a year after she obtained her degree in social sciences. However, the lawyer and activist was at that point still married to his first wife, Evelyn Mase.

The couple got married a year after they met and had two daughters together. In 1963 Madiba was arrested and imprisoned, but the duo remained married and upon his release in 1990, Winnie was by her husband's side.

However, as Briefly.co.za reported previously, the first democratic head of state filed for divorce just two years after he was released from prison.

During the divorce trial, Madiba told the court he felt nothing but "loneliness" during his marriage with the "Mother of the Nation", as he used to call her.

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She thought about taking her own life in jail

Ma Winnie was seen as a symbol of strength amongst the oppressed in South Africa. But, the struggle icon has admitted there were times she was weak- and, while in jail she even thought about ending her own life.

"You are imprisoned in this little cell. When you stretch your hands you touch the walls. You are reduced to a nobody, a non-value. It is like killing you alive," she said.

While she is no longer with us in person, Ma Winnie's legacy and courage would forever live on with the people, whose freedom she fought for her entire life. Happy birthday Mam!

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Source: Briefly.co.za

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