(RNN) – Winnie Madikizela Mandela, former wife of Nelson Mandela, has died at age 81, according to the BBC.
Her personal assistant said a family will be issuing a statement later on Monday.
Madikizela-Mandela was married to Nelson Mandela from 1958 to 1996. Mandela was imprisoned throughout most of their marriage and Madikizela-Mandela's own activism against the apartheid regime led to her being imprisoned for months and years under house arrest.
As a parliamentarian after South Africa's first all-race elections, she was convicted of fraud. Still, she was widely venerated in South Africa for her role in fighting white minority rule.
Her political activism was marred by a kidnapping and assault conviction in 1991, for which she was fined. She faced these allegations again during the 1997 hearings before the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, a panel that investigated apartheid-era crimes.
Mandela was born in the Eastern Cape in 1936, and moved to Johannesburg to study social work. She met Nelson Mandela in 1957. The couple had two children together.
An active anti-apartheid lawyer and activist, Nelson Mandela was arrested in 1963 and sentenced to live in prison for treason. He was released in 1990, and the image of the two walking hand-in-hand from the prison was seen around the world.
During her husband's time in prison, Winnie Madikizela Mandela was placed under house arrest at one point, and banished to another city. She was detained for 18 months in solitary confinement in prison in 1969 for violating the Suppression of Communism Act of 1950.