South Africans are sending messages of condolence to the Sobukwe family following the death of anti-apartheid struggle stalwart Zondeni Veronica Sobukwe, who was affectionately known as the “Mother of Azania”.

She was the widow of Robert Sobukwe, who in 1959 helped found the radical Pan Africanist Congress (PAC) – one of the parties that fought against white-minority rule. It had broken way from the now-ruling African Nation Congress (ANC) party.

She met Sobukwe as a trainee nurse when she was a strike leader calling for more rights for black student nurses at Victoria Hospital in Lovedale.

After their marriage and his imprisonment by the white-minority government, she fought tirelessly for his release.

After he was freed from prison he was kept under house arrest.

When he was diagnosed with lung cancer, the apartheid government made it hard for him to receive treatment, and he died in 1978 from lung complications – something that continued to anger Mrs Sobukwe.

Since the end of apartheid in 1994, the PAC and some in the country have accused the ANC of overlooking her contribution to the struggle.

In April, some of that recognition was bestowed on her when she was awarded the Order of Luthuli, an accolade given to those who have made a meaningful contribution to the struggle for democracy.

Today President Cryril Ramaphosa described her as “a heroine of the resistance”:

We have lost a heroine of resistance and a fighter for the freedom of all South Africans, who continued her activism into our democratic dispensation. We will always remember and honour her extraordinary contribution."