President Cyril Ramaphosa has expressed his condolences following the passing of Nobel Laureate and last leader of the Soviet Union, Mikhail Gorbachev.
In a statement, President Ramaphosa said the country is greatly indebted to the support provided by the Soviet Union over an extended period, including Gorbachev’s term of office – to South Africa’s liberation movement and to anti-colonial struggles in Southern Africa.
Gorbachev passed away at the age of 91 following a long-term illness.
His political career is crowned by the glasnost and perestroika reforms he initiated in the late 1980s, to transform the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics and to end the Cold War, which marked geopolitical tension between the Soviet Union and the United States.
President Ramaphosa said Gorbachev was a statesman who was able to balance his love for his country and the advancement of its interests with the vision of a world in which conflict was reduced and humanity was able to live in conditions of peace and tolerance.
“In support of our own liberation, Mikhail Gorbachev sustained the Soviet Union’s support for our struggle in the critical period that led to the unbanning of the liberation movement and our transition to democracy.
“We are humbled by the regard he expressed for Nelson Mandela as an inspiration to him and as a model of leadership to the world.
“We will remember Mikhail Gorbachev with appreciation for his role in making our country a better place within a better world,” the President said.
The President joined the international community in offering his condolences to Gorbachev’s family and associates, including the esteemed circle of Nobel Laureates, among whom President Nelson Mandela was numbered.
As the first President of a democratic South Africa, President Mandela visited the Russian Federation in 1999 to express his appreciation for this solidarity.
In November 1986, Gorbachev, as General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union’s Central Committee, hosted African National Congress President Oliver Tambo and former President Thabo Mbeki, for deliberations in Moscow on the anti-apartheid struggle and international questions.