Sascoc, Cope pay tribute to 'iconic', 'inspirational' Mluleki George
"He was a consummate politician and inspirational leader, with a decorated career in both the sporting and political arenas."
JOHANNESBURG - Congress of the People (Cope) told Eyewitness News on Wednesday that former deputy Defence Minister Mluleki George would be remembered as someone who served the country with distinction.
The apartheid struggle stalwart passed away on Tuesday night from coronavirus complications. He was 72 years old.
He was deputy Defence Minister from 2004 to 2008, and fought against apartheid in sports, especially rugby. He was elected to represent the ANC in Parliament after the first democratic elections.
The struggle stalwart broke away from the ANC and helped form Cope in 2008, after former President Jacob Zuma was elected to the top office.
Cope spokesperson Dennis Bloem said George's passing was a major loss for the country.
"We salute him and will respect him forever. Our condolences go to his wife, family, friends and comrades. May his soul rest in peace."
Bloem said George was passionate about his countrymen.
“This is a massive loss not just to his family, but to the entire country," he said. "Comrade George was a true patriot, a freedom fighter who loved his people and his country. We will always remember Comrade George for the role he played in dismantling apartheid in sports."
George was integral to the formation of Cope following a fallout with the governing ANC at its conference in 2007 where Zuma was elected to head the party. George was also a founding member of the United Democratic Front in 1983, and served as a member of the inaugural democratic Parliament following the 1994 elections.
Meanwhile, the South African Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee (Sascoc) also expressed its mourning.
"He was a consummate politician and inspirational leader, with a decorated career in both the sporting and political arenas," it said in a statement on Wednesday.
In 1988, he co-founded the National Sports Council (NSC) and in 1989, was a founder and executive member of the National Olympic Committee of South Africa. These organisations were the forerunners to sports governing body Sascoc.
Mluleki was president of the Border Rugby Union at the time of his arrest by the apartheid government in 1976. He was banished to Robben Island for five years after that.
"George played an integral part in the unification of South African sport in the early 1990s and himself served as president of the NSC and United Border Rugby Union from 1991 to 2001 and as vice-president of the South African Rugby Football Union from 1993 until 1998," Sascoc said.
Among other sporting designations, George was interim chair of the South African Football Association in its first year of existence in 1991/92, as well as a member of the International Rugby Board from 1994 to 1997.
"Sascoc, on behalf of his membership and the sports movement pays tribute to one of our most revered and iconic sports administrator and leader. May his soul rest in well-deserved peace," it said.