Moses "Moss" Chikane's death is a tremendous blow to the ANC and society at large, the party said on Thursday.
The ANC stalwart died at the age of 69 on Wednesday night after a long illness. He is survived by five sons and a daughter, three brothers and four sisters.
"His sense of integrity and his personal courage set him far apart from many of his peers. He is among the comrades who refused to be corrupted or intimidated in pursuit of the course of the people," the party added.
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ANC sent condolences to Chikane's children and family.
"We mourn the loss of this gentle giant, whose life was one of service, excellence, and love for his movement. He dedicated his life to, not only serve South African people, but the entire world," the ANC said.
Chikane was the national coordinator of the ANC team responsible for facilitating the return of ANC members from exile in 1994.
"He was among the tacticians of our movement who worked flat out as we prepared for the transition into democracy," the party said.
He 'was never a populist'
Chikane served as a diplomat under the ANC-led government. He served as an ambassador to Germany in 2005 and to Zambia five years later.
"His loss is a tremendous blow to the ANC and society at large. Comrade Moss was never a populist. No one could challenge his record of revolutionary thought, discipline and most importantly, consistent action. Comrade Chikane served the ANC with integrity and was part of renewal and restoration of the values of the movement," the party said.
It added that Chikane came from the generation of the activists who fought for justice, freedom and democracy under the banner of the United Democratic Front (UDF), while the ANC was banned.
"It is a matter of great pain that the movement has lost such a humble servant of the people who never wanted glorification of any kind during his work," the ANC said.
Family spokesperson Chikane Chikane told News24 that Chikane's life should be celebrated instead of mourned.
"We are proud that we had a person like him in our midst. He was not only our brother, he was a man of the community. We are proud of him for all the good things he did. Instead of mourning his death, we need to celebrate the good things that he did for us," the family spokesperson said.
He added that, although they were not sure whether Chikane would be given a state funeral, the family expected the funeral to take place next Saturday.
"It can't be beyond that Saturday, that's what we decided this morning (Thursday)," he said.