Ilse Naude, the wife of Afikaner theologian and anti-apartheid activist Beyers Naude, has died after a heart attack, Die Burger newspaper reported on Saturday.
She was 98.
Johan Naude, the oldest son of the couple, said were it not for his mother’s strength, his father would never have achieved what he did in the fight against apartheid.
Mrs Naude underwent a hip operation two weeks ago and had complained of fatigue ever since.
She died on Thursday.
“She slept a lot in the last while and she said she was very tired,” her daughter Rita said.
The couple were married for 64 years when Naude died at the age of 89 in 2004.
On her 95th birthday Naude said she missed her husband and “wanted to go home” to join him.
The two met at the Stellenbosch University where he studied theology and mathematics.
At his 80th birthday party former president Nelson Mandela praised the couple.
“His strength is of body and spirit and is the sort of power and indomitable spirit that beat the evil of apartheid and made him a hero of our people,” Mandela said.
“If someone asks me what a new South African should be, I will say ‘Look at Beyers and his wife, Ilse’.”
The presidency on Saturday issued a statement of condolence.
“We will always remember Tannie Ilse as the pillar beside her late husband, Dr Beyers Naude, a pioneer of non-racialism and one of the stalwarts of our struggle for liberation both here and abroad, they both loved and were loved by our people, black and white,” said President Jacob Zuma in a statement.
“On behalf of myself, the government and the people of South Africa, we extend our deepest condolences and may her soul rest in peace,” said Zuma.
In his autobiography, My Land of Hope, Naude credited his wife for planting the seed of non-racialism in him.
Ilse Naude grew up on the Moravian mission in Genadendal near Caledon. She became used to living with coloured people who worked at the church at a time when South Africans of different races were kept separate.
In his autobiography Naude admitted that for chauvinistic reasons he did not keep his wife informed about his growing estrangement from the apartheid regime.
The couple had two serious disagreements in their time together. The first was when he said he wanted to leave the country and she said she would not follow him. The second was when he left the Dutch Reformed Church and she remained a member.
Naude leaves four children, four grandchildren and three great grandchildren. – Sapa