Zuma conveys condolences to DRC after opposition leader Tshisekedi's death

2017-02-04 13:32
Jacob Zuma (File: AFP)

Jacob Zuma (File: AFP)

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Cape Town – President Jacob Zuma has conveyed his condolences to the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) following the death of opposition leader Etienne Tshisekedi.

Tshisekedi died on Wednesday at the age of 84 in Belgium where he had been seeking medical treatment.

Reports said that he had long battled rumours of ill health because of complications from diabetes.

In a statement, the Department of International Relations and Co-operation (Dirco) said the South African government had learnt with "sadness" about his passing away.

"President Zuma recalled that Mr Étienne Tshisekedi, who died aged 84 and whose political career took off with the DRC’s independence in 1960, was a constant figure in the country’s public life for decades. 

"The President noted that the late Mr Étienne Tshisekedi will also be remembered for the key role he played in the political landscape of the Democratic Republic of the Congo," read part of the statement.

Long and illustrious political career 

Tshisekedi pushed for democratic reforms for decades in the vast central African nation throughout dictatorship and civil war.

His death came at a politically fragile moment for DRC, where he was heavily involved in the recent deal to get President Joseph Kabila to agree to step down by the end of this year after months of deadly protests. The parties signed a deal that has yet to be implemented.

The stalemate already has worried observers, and Tshisekedi's death likely will compound the difficulties.

Meanwhile, Chairperson of the Southern African Partnership for Democratic Change, Mmusi Maimane, said in a statement that Tshisekedi, during "his long and illustrious political career, stood up for democracy and justice in the face of dictatorship and the erosion of the will of the people, a cornerstone of democratic governance".

Read more on:    mmusi maimane  |  jacob zuma  |  etienne tshisekedi  |  sa  |  drc  |  central africa  |  southern africa

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