He also refused for a long time to see that two years after his release she was carrying on an affair with Dali Mpofu, a lawyer half her age.
I won't be your bloody fool, Dali." A month later, in April 1992, the ANC fired her from the welfare post and Mr Mandela announced that the marriage was over. She would not be denied the glory she believed was her due after waiting 27 years for her husband to leave jail. She did what few other senior ANC leaders did: she would turn up in her Mercedes Benz to visit the poorest of the poor in the squalid squatter camps of Johannesburg and the Cape, she incited the youth with rabble-rousing speeches.
Her world seemed in ruins, as it does now that President Mandela has fired her from her job as deputy minister of culture. Even though her fortunes fell once more in July 1993, when the ANC Women's League suspended her for displaying "defiance, insubordination and total disloyalty", she went out of her way to prove her accusers right by writing an article published in the South African press accusing the ANC leadership of rushing "with unseemly haste" to cut a deal with FW de Klerk's National Party, "to wrap themselves in the silken sheets of power". With her populist message she tapped into a radical vein in the ANC - a small constituency but one potent enough to make it impossible for the leadership to ignore her.
Despite recurrent reports in the media that the couple would reunite, the evidence suggests that now he cannot stand the sight of her.
For his 75th birthday party in June 1993, he invited 650 guests. At their daughter's wedding later that year, he turned his back on her when she approached him for a dance. But one friend in whom occasionally he confides let slip last year that Mr Mandela had told him he could never forgive his wife. It was again with his head and not his heart that he made the decision this week to dismiss her from his government.
John Carlin reports In December 1989, Nelson Mandela sent Winnie his last Christmas card from prison. Some months earlier he had sent her a birthday card with the message, "What a difference it makes in my life to have you".