South African anti-apartheid crusader Winnie Madikizela-Mandela has died aged 81.
According to her family she died peacefully in the early hours of Monday.
“She succumbed peacefully in the early hours of Monday afternoon surrounded by her family and loved ones,” the family said 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 recognisable faces.”
News of her death comes on the day the US marks 50 years since the assassination of civil rights activist Martin Luther King — who her former husband paid tribute to while accepting the Nobel Peace Prize in 1993.
The young activist met Nelson Mandela at a bus stop in Soweto when she was 22 in 1957 and the pair married a year later. Their romance lasted 38 years that was largely spent apart, with Nelson imprisoned for 27 years, leaving Winnie to raise two daughters and keep his political dream alive.
In 1990 the world watched when Nelson Mandela finally walked out of prison — hand-in-hand with Winnie.
But they separated just two years later and divorced in 1996 after a legal wrangle that revealed her affair with a young bodyguard and she went on to become embroiled in several major controversies.