Winnie Madikizela-Mandela (pictured) served the country of South Africa in support of her late-ex-husband, Nelson Mandela. However, their union suffered under the weight of their 27 years apart, leading to division and divorce. On this day in 1995, President Mandela fired his wife from her government post.
Madikizela-Mandela, also lovingly referred to as “The Mother of the Nation,” was the face of her husband’s anti-Apartheid movement while he was imprisoned.
Watch Winnie Madikizela-Mandela’s speech about dismantling Apartheid here:
Despite her championing the liberation of her people, Madikizela-Mandela’s public life was marred with controversy.
In 1986, Madikizela-Mandela’s fiery nature was on display in a speech where she endorsed the practice of “necklacing,” the act of placing an automobile tire around a person’s neck and lighting it on fire.
In 1988, bodyguard Jerry Musivuzi Richardson accused Madikizela-Mandela of ordering the kidnapping of four boys with one of them later murdered. The boys were suspected of being abused by a minister and were allegedly beaten to confess against the clergyman. One of the youth, 14-year-old James Seipei, was found dead shortly after the abduction.
Madikizela-Mandela was acquitted of all crimes but the kidnapping in 1991, avoiding a six-year jail sentence narrowly. She was accused of other bullying tactics, though, such as intimidation and ordering hits on certain officials.
Upon President Mandela’s rise in office, he appointed his then-wife to be the Deputy Minister of Arts, Culture, Science, and Technology under the new, Apartheid-free government. Madikizela-Mandela held her post for just 11 months before her husband dismissed her behind claims of corruption.
As part of the African National Congress (ANC), Madikizela-Mandela enjoyed certain prominence but President Mandela accused her of stealing money from the ANC’s Women’s League. The news of Madikizela-Mandela’s activities as a politician earned her the unflattering nickname “Mugger of the Nation.”
Despite the charges and a 1997 hearing with the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) regarding accusations of widespread murder, Madikizela-Mandela remained a member of the ANC and is currently serving as part of the South African Parliament.