FORMER president Thabo Mbeki yesterday spent more than an hour with the bereaved family of his longtime ally Manto Tshabalala-Msimang at her home in Waterkloof Ridge, Pretoria.
Mbeki said Tshabalala-Msimang's death was a loss as he had known and worked with her for more than 40 years.
He said he regretted that he was out of the country when the former minister of health died on Wednesday afternoon because he would have visited her.
"Her death came as a great shock as I was in Sudan. It was completely unexpected. I knew she was not well but there was no suggestion that she was so unwell that she would pass away. Her departure creates a gap for our generation, the people she worked with," Mbeki said.
He said that the country should give Tshabalala-Msimang a proper farewell.
Other high-profile people who came to pay their respects were former minister in the presidency Essop Pahad, Speaker of Parliament Max Sisulu and political adviser to President Jacob Zuma Charles Ngqakula.
The family did not allow the media, except for the SABC, inside the yard.
Speaking on behalf of the government, Ngqakula said a joint media briefing would be held today where details of the funeral would be announced.
Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe said Tshabalala-Msimang was so passionate about and dedicated to the ANC that she spoke about it on her deathbed.
"I was told that she was still talking about the ANC at that difficult hour," Motlanthe said.
He described Tshabalala-Msimang as very dedicated to the cause of liberating the country.
He said she served as an MP right up to her last day.
"She gave her life to the service of the people. She left the country when she was very young and never slowed down. It is a great loss and our hearts go out to her family, children and grandchildren," he said.
Motlanthe said Nqgakula had been appointed to speak for the government.
Also accompanying Motlanthe were Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi, who said he had served with Tshabalala-Msimang in the ANC's national executive committee.
"She was a tireless freedom fighter and committed comrade. She was a loving parent, and I know so personally. My deepest condolences to the family. We understand what they are going through," he said.
Acting Tshwane mayor Dikeledi Lehobye also paid her last respects. She said she was touched and saddened by the passing on of this "gallant daughter of the soil. On behalf of the political and administrative leadership of the City of Tshwane, and the entire population in the capital, I wish to express my heart-felt condolences to the family".
Tshabalala-Msimang died on Wednesday afternoon at the Wits Donald Gordon Medical Centre.
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