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SA political heavyweights pay tribute to Madiba

South African political heavyweights have described Nelson Mandela as an icon, a friend and mentor.

The former leader and South Africa's first democratically elected president died on Thursday night.

Democratic Alliance (DA) leader Helen Zille said Mandela was "the greatest South African who ever lived".

"Today, we are a nation united in grief. It is with deep and profound sadness that we say: rest in peace Tata, we will never forget you," Zille said.

Zille said the nation was united in its grief.

"We all belong to the South African family – and we owe that sense of belonging to Madiba. That is his legacy. It is why there is an unparalleled outpouring of national grief at his passing. It is commensurate with the contribution he made to our country.

"Through his humility, moral conviction and bold leadership, Madiba gave us a gift for which we, and successive generations will be forever grateful. He gave us his vision of a free and inclusive South Africa and the unwavering belief that such a society could be achieved in his lifetime.

"He was, quite simply, the greatest South African that ever lived. We shall never see his like again. Let all South Africans join hands as we mourn Madiba's passing and celebrate his life. Let us re-affirm his values and recapture his spirit in all we do," she said.

Prepared to die for the struggle
Economic Freedom Fighters leader Julius Malema, tweeted: "It's hard times, but our faith as a nation should make us go through this difficult period in our life time. Salute, comrade president Madiba".

Agang SA leader Mamphela Ramphele, said that it was testimony to Mandela's "greatness and success, as an agent of freedom, nation building and transformation, that he's mourned by all".

Cosatu and the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) also praised Mandela.

Cosatu spokesperson Patrick Craven said Mandela never compromised his principles and was prepared to die for the struggle.

"Although Comrade Madiba would have insisted that full credit be given to the other giants of the struggle – Oliver Tambo, Walter Sisulu, Chief Albert Luthuli, Joe Slovo, Chris Hani and many others – he was unique, the South African who, more than any other, became the embodiment of the struggle against racist dictatorship, apartheid brutality and the exploitation of workers and the poor," Craven said.

NUM spokesperson, Lesiba Seshoka, said Mandela was an honorary president of the union.

"Mandela, who has throughout sacrificed and dedicated his life for the good of the people of South Africa and the world will be solely missed as a global icon, a peace maker and a freedom fighter of note. As an honorary president of the NUM, he has been an inspiration through and through and has on many occasions motivated mineworkers to take education seriously as he believed that it is through [education] that their children will head mines."

'This is a loss to us all'
Mangosuthu Buthelezi, president of the Inkatha Freedom Party, said the nation's grief was "palpable".

"The last few months have been difficult, as we awaited news about Madiba's health and prayed for strength for the Mandela family. We stood in support of Mrs Graça Machel, Nkosi Mandla Mandela, Madiba's daughters and grandchildren, and all his family.

"Now, we mourn with them. This is a loss to us all."

Buthelezi described Mandela as a "life-long friend, an inspired leader and a man of complex character. He was also a friend of my family and I convey in this my wife's condolences too, to Madiba's loved ones."

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