Winnie Madikizela-Mandela (1936 – 2018)

Winnie Mandela, the second wife of Nelson Mandela, died this week on Monday, 2nd April.  She played a vital role in the fight against apartheid in South Africa, and in freeing her husband after his lengthy period of imprisonment for nearly three decades from 1962 to 1990.  She managed to bring up their two daughters as a single mother, multi-tasking as a freedom fighter.  Until the murder of Stompie Moeketsi in 1989 she largely enjoyed an esteemed and admired following and reputation.  I read her autobiographical work “Part of My Soul went with Him” in 1994, a collection of interviews and a touching testament to her devotion to this man with whom she had hardly spent any time (“life with him was always a life without him”).  In our house, my daughters had a much loved black doll we called Winnie.

Birth Chart

Winnie had the Sun, Mercury and Venus in Libra, not a sign known for fighting, but one very much motivated by a sense of justice.  The fight in her is depicted in her close trine between Mars and the North Node (her karmic mission), giving her the Warrior Archetype, and leadership qualities linked with her karmic mission.  She also had some personal belligerence with Mars in Leo square the Ascendant at the beginning of her 10th House of Career, showing that self-assertion was also part of her career path.  Sun and Venus in Libra suggest her fame emerging through association with her life partner.  She was a romantic, with Venus sextile Mars, seeing Mandela as part of her soul.  The pain of the isolation and separation within that relationship is seen in her Venus square Pluto.


Winnie was a firebrand and a rebel from her early youth.  As well as her Mars aspects, she had an unruly unaspected Uranus (The Rebel) except for a possible square to her Moon (we do not have her birth time).  After fighting viciously in childhood with her sister, her mother gave her a severe beating.  She was devastated by her mother’s death at the early age of 9 or 10 (accounts differ), after which the siblings were split up among other relatives.

Both her parents were Methodists, but the death of her mother made her lose faith in religion (natal Jupiter square Neptune).  After her schooling, she took a degree in social work (1956) and later a degree in international relations.  She began work as a social worker, and according to her biographer Emma Gilbey she was “a remarkably effective and dedicated social worker”.

Meeting Nelson Mandela

The Guardian obituary, (written by David Beresford and Dan van der Vat) tells us: ” There was somehow an inevitability about Winnie and Nelson meeting, setting in motion one of history’s great and yet tragic love stories.” The obituary describes their introduction in a delicatessen by Oliver Tambo (a member of the ANC) in 1958.  According to Wikipedia she was 22 years of age and standing at a bus stop in Soweto when Mandela first saw her and asked her out (despite his already being married).


They married in June 1958.  I wrote in my astro-obituary of Nelson Mandela in 2013:

“His marriage to Winnie Mandela undoubtedly provided emotional stability and strength, and a sense of family important to his Cancerian Sun, including the experience of fatherhood.  She was to visit him in prison from time to time, and was a key figure in keeping his cause alive and understood by the outside world.  Her role of assistant in his activism is seen in their synastry as her Mercury (information) exactly conjunct his Mars (activism).  In their personal interaction, her Venus (supportive Love) was exactly trine his Uranus (attracted to his brilliance) which trined and bisected his conjunction of Venus and Jupiter (love of humanity).”

I would add that Mandela’s Jupiter was conjunct Winnie’s South Node (a favourable past life link) and his Venus was exactly conjunct her Chiron in Gemini.  The trine of his Uranus and her Venus also describes the separated nature of their life together.  Jupiter was trine his natal Venus in the month when they married, a classic “marriage” transit, but Saturn was also opposite his Venus.  For Winnie, there were some tough squares transiting her chart at their marriage.


Children (two daughters) followed quickly: Zenani in February 1959 and Zindzi in 1960.  By this time, Winnie was heavily active in politics.  From 1962 she was in effect acting as a single mother in terms of shouldering the parenting.  In the turbulent years of Winnie’s activism when they were growing up, the relationship of the two sisters to each other must have been a much-needed source of companionship.  Their closeness is shown in the fact that Zenani’s Sun is exactly conjunct Zindzi’s Venus.

Nelson, the father of the new South Africa, was a Cancerian, a sign synonymous with parenthood.  Yet he had virtually no role in bringing up the two sisters.  In his autobiography “Long Walk to Freedom”, he writes in contrast about the pleasure he took in parenting his son Thembi (from his first marriage):

“I enjoyed domesticity, even though I had little time for it.  I delighted in playing with Thembi, bathing him and feeding him, and putting him to bed with a little story. In fact, I love playing with children and chatting with them; it has always been one of the things that make me feel most at peace. I enjoyed relaxing at home, reading quietly, taking in the sweet and savoury smells emanating from pots boiling in the kitchen.”


After Nelson Mandela was imprisoned in 1962, and the children were very young, not only was Winnie bringing them up on her own, but family life was constantly disrupted, from the consequences of her activism.  She was passionate about combating apartheid, and valiantly supportive of her husband and the movement to free him.  She became a figurehead for all he stood for, on his behalf.  She was tortured, banned from her own country, was subject to house arrest, banished to a rural town, and put in solitary confinement throughout the years her husband was in prison.  According to Nelson in his autobiography, in the early hours of 12th May 1969 the police woke Winnie and detained her without charge (Pluto was square her natal Chiron at the time).  On the night of 16th May 1977 police cars pulled up and began loading furniture and items into a truck; this time it was her banishment to a remote township.  Uranus in her chart was opposite its natal position, and Pluto was on her natal Mercury.  She was occasionally allowed to visit Nelson Mandela at Robben Island.  All the while, she was fighting for justice and equal rights.

Loose Cannon

Towards the end of Nelson’s incarceration, it became apparent that Winnie had become involved in some more dubious practices in the pursuit of the justice she sought.  She and Mandela had evolved differently in the time they were apart.  They had both started out as freedom fighters, and he had originally thought violence was a justifiable means to an end.  But in his sometimes solitary reflection in prison, and thoughtful reading, he became more philosophical and sought more diplomatic ways, for example in negotiating with prison authorities on behalf of his fellow inmates.  He began to think about concepts such as forgiveness.

In contrast, Winnie admitted that being imprisoned and tortured had brutalized her, describing the effects of her treatment in terms of “I knew what it is to hate”.  She became involved with what later were revealed as human rights abuses, including the violent method of “necklacing” (placing burning tyres around the neck of the victim).  She made a speech in April 1986 endorsing this practice, which she later regretted (Uranus was opposite her natal Chiron at the time).  In another speech in 2010, she attacked Nelson Mandela, and later claimed the interview to be a fabrication.

Mercury retrograde unaspected in her chart may have made her a loose cannon in speech at times, and Jupiter square her Saturn could result in her shooting herself in the foot occasionally.  Plus her Jupiter square Neptune may have confused her in ethical issues.

All came to a head in the affair of the murder of Stompie Moeketsi.  Three boys were captured at the end of December 1988 by members of her bodyguards (the Mandela United Football Club) and one of the boys, Stompie, was murdered at the beginning of January 1989.  At the time, Uranus (unpredictable behaviour and circumstances) was square to her natal Sun.  She was implicated, and later convicted of kidnapping and being an accessory to assault. From prison, Nelson Mandela gave instructions for her to break away from the Football Club, which she ignored.

Nelson Mandela’s Release

By the time Nelson Mandela’s release took place on 11th February 1990, her reputation had become tarnished, and the two of them had evolved on different paths.  Nevertheless, they took each other’s hand, in acknowledgement of the vital role she had played in his release.  Their relationship was not quite over.  The Guardian Obituary stated:  “It was a moment of triumph for Winnie, and she had at least a taste of power in those early days of her husband’s freedom.”

Nelson Mandela was experiencing a Jupiter Return at that time, in Cancer, in his 7th House of Close Relationships.  Winnie herself had a wonderful set of transits at that moment, profound and with an emphasis on freedom (for her as well as for him): Mars was trine her natal Uranus, Uranus was trine her Uranus, Pluto was trine her Saturn and Pluto sextile her Neptune.  She might have used this moment to put the past behind her.

Nelson Mandela’s Inauguration

Nelson meanwhile, was setting out his stall in his new political role.  He was elected as President, and had had plenty of time to think about his philosophy and values, and how he wanted South Africa to go forward.  In his inauguration speech, he stated:

“We thank all our distinguished international guests for having come to take possession with the people of our country of what is, after all, a common victory for justice, for peace, for human dignity.

We trust that you will continue to stand by us as we tackle the challenges of building peace, prosperity, non-sexism, non-racialism and democracy.”

Winnie’s own attitudes at that time were far less conciliatory.

Separation and Divorce

With the revelation that Winnie had had affairs while he had been imprisoned, Nelson announced their separation on 13th April 1992.  She had some heavy but steadying transits at the time, such as Saturn sextile her Jupiter.  He had a powerful and defining sextile of transiting Jupiter to his natal Pluto.  They became divorced in March 1996, with Uranus (separation) trine her natal Sun, and Neptune square her Venus (confused romantic direction).  It was a psychologically healthy break for him with two positive transits to his Chiron (a sextile from Uranus, and a trine from Pluto).

Nelson’s Marriage to Graca Machel

At the age of 80 in 1998, Nelson married another Libran, Graca Machel.  It was a more considered marriage, taken in maturity.  Her Saturn (maturity) was conjunct his natal Sun.  Their Neptunes were sextile, a sign of being spiritually in tune.

Winnie’s Later Career

Winnie was to face more trials (her given name at birth “Nomzamo” means “she who must endure trials”) for human rights abuses, and fraud, and dipped in and out of political life as her circumstances fluctuated.

She was convicted of fraud on 24th April 2003, at a time when transiting Jupiter was squaring her natal Uranus in Taurus (chickens coming home to roost).

In a resounding victory, she made a stunning return to politics on 21st December 2007, when the ANC elected its National Executive Committee.  Sun/Pluto were on her North Node in Sagittarius at the time – a sign that politics was a strong part of her karmic mission. She also had at the time Jupiter trine her natal Mars (popularity and fresh energy) and Saturn trine her natal Uranus (great strength).

There is no doubt that Winnie played a great role in fashioning modern South Africa, and that even up to her death, she had many followers and admirers.  Many regarded her as the mother of the nation.

Death of Nelson Mandela

Nelson Mandela died on 5th December 2013; Saturn was trine her natal Saturn, indicating a decisive but sober event in her life.  Saturn was also sextile her natal Neptune, and Mars sextile her natal Pluto, stirring up old emotions.  She contested his will involving their two daughters.

Winnie’s Death

Winnie’s health started to decline at the beginning of this year, with Pluto sextile her natal Saturn. She had undergone major surgeries and also suffered from diabetes.  At the time of her death from a “long illness” the disruptive planet  Uranus was opposite her ruling planet Venus, and also square her natal Pluto, planet of Transformation.

Former Archbishop Desmond Tutu

During the time she appeared before the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in 1997, Desmond Tutu urged her to apologise and admit that she had made mistakes.  Her response was to say “things went horribly wrong”.

In his wholeheartedly affectionate tribute to her this week, he acknowledges her heroic role in the anti-apartheid struggle:

“She refused to be bowed by the imprisonment of her husband, the perpetual harassment of her family by security forces, detentions, bannings and banishment.  her courageous defiance was deeply inspirational to me, and to generations  of activists”

~ Desmond Tutu


Our aspects begin on Tuesday (10th) this week, with Venus square the North Node.  This focuses on karmic relationships, particularly in relation to groups.  You may find yourself within a group situation which seems predestined, or pondering the significance of your relation to a group, possibly linked with past life experiences.

On Wednesday (11th) the Sun squares Pluto, which may bring endings and transformations.  These may be outwardly dramatic, or inwardly heartsearching.

We also have that day a trine between Venus and Mars, so the whole day will be eliciting passionate emotions one way or another, and on different levels.  The Venus/Mars combination is easier and more satisfying, bringing sensual delights, but will be more superficial in nature than the square between the Sun and Pluto.  It may however, help to ease the way, for example if you have a massage scheduled you may feel more relaxed about dealing with the deeper issues.

Thursday (12th) brings a sextile between Venus and Neptune, a sublime aspect which can lift your mood subtly.  This aspect can bring about exquisite artistry, musicianship and poetry.  Relationships too, can achieve spiritual heights.  Finer feelings can blossom.

The most important aspect of the week arrives at the end, on Saturday (14th), and it is the powerful Jupiter sextile Pluto.  It is about the bold but wise use of power, if you are keyed into it.  Philanthropy flourishes, and is appreciated.  Don’t miss this opportunity to display your best self.

Another sextile on Saturday afternoon bolsters the feelgood factor: Mars sextile Neptune.  There is room for finesse in your activities and dealings with others.  Spiritually oriented activities such as Tai Chi, Qijong and Yoga flow well under this aspect.

The week in bullet points:

  • Tuesday – karmic interaction
  • Wednesday – dramatic and passionate
  • Thursday – sublime and inspirational
  • Saturday – powerful in a positive way, but with subtle elements too