TEHRAN (Press Shia) – Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif expressed condolences over the death of Winnie Mandela, the former wife of South African anti-apartheid icon Nelson Mandela.

In a message on Tuesday, the Iranian minister hailed Winnie Mandela’s long record of standing up to racism and apartheid alongside Nelson Mandela.

She played a high profile role in helping African people achieve their objectives in their anti-apartheid campaign and in their struggle to end white-minority rule, he said. 

Zarif further described her death as a great loss for the African population and all people with anti-racist views.

Winnie Mandela died on Monday aged 81, triggering an outpouring of tributes to one of the country's defining and most divisive figures.

She died in a Johannesburg hospital after a long illness, family spokesman Victor Dlamini said in a statement.

"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 her family.

"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."