British veterans of the campaign against apartheid in South Africa have praised Winnie Mandela’s role in opposing white minority rule, following her death at the age of 81.
Shadow home secretary Diane Abbott hailed the “extraordinary courage” of the woman who fought for 27 years for the release from jail of her husband Nelson Mandela.
And former cabinet minister Lord Hain said Mrs Madikizela-Mandela’s “fearless” opposition to the apartheid regime should not be overshadowed by the controversy surrounding her “rogue later life”.
Nelson Mandela’s second wife became a beacon of the struggle against racial segregation and discrimination during his lengthy incarceration.
Footage of her hand-in-hand with her husband on his release in 1990 was seen around the world.
But she was accused of endorsing brutal violence, including the “necklacing” of alleged informants with burning car tyres, and was found guilty of kidnapping in the case of murdered teenage activist Stompie Moeketsi.
The South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission found her “morally accountable” for violations by her personal bodyguards, known as Mandela United FC.
Describing her as “fearless (and) defiant in the face of the apartheid state”, he added: “Remember that when correctly criticising her rogue later life.”
Ms Abbott said: “I will never forget the image of Winnie walking hand in hand with Nelson Mandela when he was finally released from prison in February 1990.
“She had campaigned for 27 long years for his release.
“Nobody can deny her extraordinary courage and that, for poor black South Africans, she remains a heroine.”
Labour MP David Lammy said: “In the those desperate years of apartheid when Nelson Mandela and so many anti-apartheid heroes were locked up on Robben Island, we looked to Winnie who fought fearlessly as a defiant voice for the voiceless and a free South Africa.”
Mrs Madikizela-Mandela’s death was marked by campaigners for equality around the world.
Retired archbishop and Nobel laureate Desmond Tutu praised her as a “defining symbol of the struggle against apartheid”.
“Her courageous defiance was deeply inspirational to me, and to generations of activists,” said Mr Tutu.
US equal rights campaigner Jesse Jackson said: “In the darkest hours of the struggle to free South Africa, with Nelson Mandela in prison, the face of hope and courage was Winnie Mandela. May she forever rest in power.”