General Constand Viljoen, former SADF commander and political leader, dies at 86

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General Constand Viljoen (left), Nelson Mandela and Alex Boraine
General Constand Viljoen (left), Nelson Mandela and Alex Boraine
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General Constand Viljoen, a former commander of the South African Defence Force (SADF) and the founding leader of the Freedom Front Plus, has died at the age of 86.

"I can confirm that General Viljoen has died on his farm in Ohrigstad (in Mpumalanga) surrounded by most of his five children at around 13:00 on Friday. He died of natural causes," said Pieter Groenewald, leader of the Freedom Front Plus.

Viljoen, who was chief of the army during the so-called Bush or Angolan War in the 1970s, rose to become chief of the defence force under then president PW Botha.

He was considered "a soldier's soldier" and often took part in operations alongside his men. He is credited with helping to defuse the threat of right-wing violence ahead of the first democratic elections in 1994, and became the first leader of the Freedom Front, who he led in the elections.

"We would like to offer our condolences to his wife, Risti, and to pay tribute to General Viljoen, who enjoyed wide respect as a soldier and made his mark as a politician. He helped pave the way for a stable transition to democracy," Groenewald said.

This is a developing story. 

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