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Zuma sends condolences to UK

Tributes from around the world continue to pour in after the death of former British PM Margret Thatcher.

Britain's former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher died at the age of 87 on 8 April, 2013. Picture: AFP.
Local

JOHANNESBURG - President Jacob Zuma has sent his condolences to the people and government of the United Kingdom (UK) as well as Thatcher's family.

Presidency spokesperson Mac Maharaj said, “The President said our thoughts and prayers are with the family of Lady Thatcher and the people of the UK during this difficult time. She was a formidable political leader and a formidable leader among leaders.”

Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair said despite their political difference he viewed the late Iron Lady as a strong leader.

Blair reflected on Thatcher as a leader.

“She was a huge and towering figure and there are very few leaders that get the chance and have the ability to change not only their own national landscape but the global landscape and she did that.”

Meanwhile the current British Prime Minister David Cameron told reporters that baroness Thatcher was a great Brit who did not just lead the country, but saved it. 

His comments reflect a period in the late 1970’s when the economy was on its knees and mass strikes were a weekly occurrence. 

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said she would never forget her part in surmounting the division on Europe.

Merkel was born behind the Berlin Wall in East-Berlin and was recognised in the vital contribution played by Thatcher in bringing the Cold War to an end.

Her comments were echoed by Barack Obama who added the world had lost one of the great champions of freedom and liberty.

A funeral will be held next week for the 87-year-old who died of a stroke.

Many world leaders are expected to attend.

INFLUENCE ON SOUTH AFRICA

Margaret Thatcher had carried the label of an apartheid supporter for many years.

Her government opposed South Africa's policies, but resisted international pressure to impose economic sanctions.

The Iron Lady believed sanctions would be immoral because they would leave thousands of black workers unemployed and would also disproportionately injure Britain. 

In 1984 she met Prime Minister PW Botha and told him that the policy of racial segregation was unacceptable.

Ex Foreign Minister Pik Botha said her message was clear.

“She was very much against apartheid and she reprimanded us."

Three years later Thatcher reportedly referred to the African National Congress (ANC) as a typical terrorist organisation and her spokesman said anyone who believed the party would rule South Africa was in cloud ‘cuckoo land’. 

In April 1990, after Nelson Mandela's historic release from prison the ANC initially refused to allow him to meet Thatcher. 

The move apparently infuriated Mandela, who eventually met the Iron Lady at number 10 Downing Street three months later. 

The ANC’s Keith Khoza said the party was on the receiving end of her policies.

“Her unfortunate policies did not assist in expedite the demise of apartheid, but rather gave it a leash of life."

In 2012, more than a decade after Mandela's meeting with Thatcher, conservative leader David Cameron met the iconic statesman and admitted the party had been wrong about the ANC.

But Former President FW de Klerk believes Thatcher had a better grasp of the complexities and realities of South Africa than many of her contemporaries.

“She exerted more influence on what has happened in South Africa more then any other political leader who at that time was on the international political stage."

The ANC has acknowledged that Thatcher was one of Europe's strong leaders and her impact will continue to be felt long after her passing.

(Edited by Tamsin Wort)

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