She was sentenced to six years for kidnapping, but South Africa's highest appeals court reduced her punishment to fines and a suspended one-year term.
But that wasn't the whole story. Madikizela-Mandela, her daughter Zindzi Mandela and Mandela family members also hosted a group of elderly women from Soweto.
It was a deep shock to her husband and the marriage would not survive.
The pair had two children together.
She inspired generations of activists and was without doubt a key figure in the movement that eventually brought democracy to South Africa.
But her growing status as a revolutionary icon in the townships was also to prove her downfall.
Books, movies and operas have been made about one of South Africa's most well-known, mysterious, yet endearing women. In 1986, she was widely linked to "necklacing", when suspected traitors were burnt alive by a petrol-soaked auto tire being put over their head and set alight. She was even banned from leaving home.
"During a life beset with tragedy and trial, she ceaselessly demonstrated the well-chronicled characteristics of her ancestors, who were fearless and autocratic... and typified their dauntless courage, stubborn pride and instinctive aptitude for survival against all odds" is how biographer Anne Mare du Preez summed up this powerful woman.
In 1994, the year that saw South Africa's first democratic and multiracial post-apartheid elections, Winnie Mandela was elected to the National Assembly and served as deputy minister of arts, culture, science, and technology for 11 months before being dismissed after allegations of corruption emerged.
'The years of imprisonment hardened me, ' she said.
Her death came as a shock.
"Mama Madikizela Mandela was identified by the masses of our people as Mother of the Nation".
She was dressed head to toe in black and she was hugely emotional, faltering and tearful. Despite her reluctance to marry him at first, they've been inseparable till he passed away. "It was enough of a blow to them to be without a father and all the struggle I've gone through trying to maintain them without employment".
"Let us draw inspiration from the struggles that she fought and the dream of a better society to which she dedicated her entire life".
Something of a firebrand, she continued to clash with successive ANC presidents in and out of parliament for the rest of her life.
The South African authorities arrested her in 1969 under the Suppression of Terrorism Act, she was tortured in the jail for a long time.
She nevertheless sought to remain in his orbit. She was a radical, impatient for real change. However, her controversial statements promoted violence and she was accused in a murder case and a convict in bank fraud case.
On Monday evening, Ramaphosa returned to her Soweto house as mourners gathered outside, singing struggle-era songs in tribute and praise.