Anti-apartheid campaigner Winnie Mandela who was once married to South Africa's first black President Nelson Mandela died here on Monday, reports said. She was 81.
She died in a Johannesburg hospital after a long illness, spokesman Victor Dlamini said in a statement.
Winnie Mandela, who was married to Nelson Mandela for 38 years, played a high-profile role in the battle to end white-minority rule but her place in history was also stained by controversy.
"It is with profound sadness that we inform the public that Mrs Winnie Madikizela-Mandela passed away at the Netcare Milpark Hospital, Johannesburg, South Africa on Monday," said a statement issued by Dlamini, a family spokesman.
"She died after a long illness, for which she had been in and out of hospital since the start of the year. She succumbed peacefully in the early hours of Monday afternoon surrounded by her family and loved ones."
Most of Winnie's marriage to Nelson was spent apart, with Nelson imprisoned for 27 years, leaving her to raise their two daughters alone and to keep alive his political dream under the repressive white-minority regime.
But her reputation came under damaging scrutiny in the twilight years of apartheid rule.
Winnie Mandela worked as an activist and a politician even when her husband was arrested.
Famously pictured hand-in-hand as Nelson Mandela walked free from prison after 27 years, the couple was a symbol of the anti-apartheid struggle for nearly three decades before her reputation became tainted legally and politically, the BBC reported.