Winnie Madikizela-Mandela  was born on 26 September 1936. She is a South African activist and politician who has held several government positions and headed the African National Congress Women’s League. She is a member of the ANC’s National Executive Committee.

Here are Top 12 things you probably didn’t know about her that might surprise you.

1.Birth Name.

She was born Nomzamo Winifred Zanyiwe Madikizela. Her Xhosa name is Nomzamo  which means “She who tries”. She was born in the village of eMbongweni, Bizana, Pondoland, in what is now South Africa’s Eastern Cape Province.

2. Has 8 siblings.

She was born the fourth out of nine children, which included seven sisters and a brother.

3. She grew up Poor.

Her parents, Columbus and Gertrude, were both teachers. Columbus was a history teacher and a headmaster, and Gertrude was a domestic science teacher. Gertrude died when Winnie was nine, resulting in the break-up of her family as all the siblings were sent to live with different relatives in other to afford food, shelter and tuition.

4. Marriage.

She met lawyer and anti-apartheid activist Nelson Mandela in 1957. She was 22 and was standing at a bus stop in Soweto when Mandela first saw her and charmed her, securing a lunch date the following week. They married in 1958. They were married for 38 years.

5. Children.

Nelson Mandela and Mama Winnie had two daughters, Zenani born 1959 and Zindzi born 1960.

6. Apartheid.

Due to her political activities, Winnie was regularly detained by the South African government. She was tortured, subjected to house arrest, kept under surveillance, held in solitary confinement for over a year.

7. Exile.

She was banished to a remote town – Brandfort in the Orange Free State and confined to the area, except for the times she was allowed to visit her husband at the prison on Robben Island.

8. Prison term.

Mama Winnie spent eighteen months in solitary confinement at Pretoria Central Prison.

9.Criminal behavior and Convictions.

  • She endorsed the practice of necklacing ”burning people alive using tyres and petrol”.
  • Accusations by her bodyguard, Jerry Musivuzi Richardson, that she had ordered kidnapping and murder.
  • Abducted 14-year-old James Seipei and 3 other youths from the home of a Methodist minister, Rev. Paul Verryn, claiming she had the youths taken to her home because she suspected the reverend was s*xually abusing them. The four were beaten to get them to admit to having had s*x with the minister.
  • She was accused of ordering the murder of Dr. Abu-Baker Asvat.

10. Cheating.

The Mandelas’ 38-year marriage ended when they separated in April 1992 after it was revealed she had been unfaithful to her husband during his imprisonment.

11. Legal problems.

On 24 April 2003, Winnie Mandela was found guilty on 43 counts of fraud and 25 of theft. She pleaded not guilty to the charges.

12. Community Activist.

She opened a clinic and a creche, and initiated feeding schemes for Brandfort’s children.

Age with grace as you Celebrate your 80th birthday ”Mother of the Nation.”