During Mandela's 27-year incarceration for his fight against apartheid, Madikizela-Mandela campaigned for his release and for the rights of black South Africans undergoing detention, banishment, and arrest.
Millions of South Africans said an emotional goodbye to anti-apartheid activist Winnie Madikizela-Mandela at her official funeral on Saturday, with supporters fiercely defending her complex legacy.
Mourners followed Madikizela-Mandela's coffin in procession into the stadium where the funeral began with the singing of the national anthem.
"Loudly and without apology, she spoke truth to power. She never stopped serving", civil rights leader Jesse Jackson said Friday. "We could have told her the praises while she was alive", Zezani said. And to her there was no contradiction in this choice, because she cherished freedom as much as she treasured her family. "She exposed the lie of apartheid".
South African President Cyril Ramaphosa will deliver the eulogy.
As one of the country's most prominent and polarizing figures, she retained political clout long after her divorce from Mandela. It offered free rides for those who wanted to attend the funeral. During this period of mourning many South Africans have been touching Mam Winnie's wounds. Others wore T-shirts emblazoned with an image of Madikizela-Mandel. We mourn with you.
In 1991, a court found Madikizela-Mandela guilty of the boy's kidnapping and assault and sentenced her to six years in jail. "We mention these instances just to make them aware, we know what they did to you", he said, claiming her detractors were weeping while failing to acknowledge their actions.
Madikizela-Mandela was largely remembered for defiantly standing up to the apartheid government and relentlessly pushing the ANC's struggle for freedom.
She had a message of strength to Zindzi and Zenani Mandela at that stage seated next to President Cyril Ramaphosa.
Ramaphosa said her statement and tears remained with him since. "In the midst of repression, she was a voice of defiance and resistance". She was always striving for equality, and to keep South Africa at the forefront of people's thoughts.
Born in 1936 in what is now known as Eastern Cape province, Nomzamo Winifred Madikizela was the daughter of a history teacher.
She told how she met Madikizela-Mandela 60 years ago at the Baragwanath Hospital, where they both worked. She will be buried as a national hero.
Many memorializing Madikizela-Mandela acknowledged her as a political drive in her personal proper. Yet, through everything, she endured.
In 2003, she was on the opposite side of love, when she was convicted of fraud and theft over a bank loan scam.
CNN's Eleni Giokos reported from Soweto, while Faith Karimi wrote from Atlanta, and Laura Smith-Spark wrote from London.