South Africa has lost a mother, a leader and an icon, President Cyril Ramaphosa told the nation during his official announcement of the death of struggle icon Winnie Madikizela-Mandela on Monday night.
"She was a voice for the voiceless," said Ramaphosa.
The announcement followed an earlier confirmation of her death by the Mandela family.
The family confirmed that the 81-year-old had died peacefully at the Netcare Milpark Hospital in Johannesburg.
"It is with a profound sense of loss and deep sadness that we have learnt of the passing away of Winnie Madikizela-Mandela," said Ramaphosa.
"Even at the darkest moments of our struggle for liberation, Mam’ Winnie was an abiding symbol of the desire of our people to be free. In the midst of repression, she was a voice of defiance and resistance."
Ramaphosa said it was through her marriage to former president Nelson Mandela that Madikizela-Mandela rose to prominence.
"But it was through her own contribution, her sacrifice and her unyielding determination that she gained the love and the respect of the nation."
Ramaphosa said, in the face of exploitation, the late struggle icon had been a champion of justice and equality.
"For many years, she bore the brunt of the senseless brutality of the apartheid state with stoicism and fortitude. Despite the hardships she faced, she never doubted that the struggle for freedom and democracy would succeed."
He said Madikizela-Mandela remained, throughout her life, a tireless advocate for the dispossessed and the marginalised.
As the country continued to mourn Madikizela-Mandela, Ramaphosa said the country must reflect on her rich, remarkable and meaningful life.
"Let us draw inspiration from the struggles that she fought and the dream of a better society to which she dedicated her life," he said.