Winnie and Nelson Mandela’s marriage survived three decades of prison — but not freedom

Nelson Mandela had been a free man for just a few moments when the iconic pictures were snapped. In them, his right hand was held aloft, clenched in a fist that had become a symbol in the fight against apartheid in South Africa and racism around the world.

His left hand clasped the hand of his wife, Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, who’d spent three decades fighting for her husband’s release — while only seeing him during prison visiting hours.

Their marriage had endured his incarceration and hers. It had weathered her hard-won ascendance in the movement to end systematized racism in Africa’s southernmost country and his inability to be a physical presence in his family’s life.

In the end, it was a marriage that survived prison, but not freedom.

Two years after walking out of Victor Verster Prison in 1990, Mandela announced that he was seeking a divorce from Madikizela-Mandela. She was having an affair with a younger colleague, Dali Mpofu, he said.

But the couple’s problems ran deeper, Mandela said. His wife only entered his bedroom when he was asleep. They had barely spoken in months. And since his release from prison, he had been “the loneliest man.”

Winnie Madikizela-Mandela died Monday after being in and out of the hospital all year, her family said. Although her marriage to Mandela is highlighted in the news

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