South Africa has been in mourning after the death of anti-apartheid icon, aged 81.

“Hundreds of red-clad supporters of the radical opposition Economic Freedom Fighters marched to Madikizela-Mandela’s home in the Johannesburg township of Soweto on Tuesday to pay homage to “the Mother of the Nation,’’ television footage showed.

Julius Malema, who heads the EFF, was once a staunch member of the ruling African National Congress party, to which Nelson Mandela and his ex-wife Madikizela-Mandela belonged, but remained friends with the latter after quitting to form his own party.

Malema visited the home in Soweto, lauding Madikizela-Mandela’s contribution to South Africa’s liberation struggle, and noting that the EFF, unlike the ANC, were “never ashamed of her.”

Madikizela-Mandela was a controversial figure, at one time afforded heroine status for her courage during Mandela’s 27-year incarceration, but later demonised for how far she was prepared to go in the struggle for liberation.

She was at Mandela’s side when he emerged triumphantly from prison.

He went on to become president in 1994.

The couple divorced in 1996 after almost four decades of marriage.

She however, retained a huge grassroots following and politicians and celebrities around the world have expressed sadness over her death.