Human rights commissioner Dr Gladstone Sandi Baai died in a Johannesburg hospital early on Wednesday morning, the SA Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) said.
“He will be remembered by the Commission as a tireless human rights campaigner, and a hard working colleague, who also was able to inject serious work with humour and compassion,” said SAHRC chairman Lawrence Mushwana.
He announced of Baai's death “with great sorrow and sadness” in a speech prepared for delivery in Nelspruit.
Baai, who was unanimously nominated by Parliament for the position in 2010, died at Milpark Hospital from an asthma condition.
His health deteriorated while attending a meeting in Cape Town at the weekend.
Mushwana described him as “a trusted and hard-working commissioner” and said his family was at his bedside when he died.
Born on December 21 1942, Baai grew up in Bizana in the Eastern Cape.
“... He knew how it feels to go to bed hungry, and wanted to change that,” said Mushwana.
He was in exile in the United Kingdom and the United States during apartheid, and returned to South Africa when struggle organisations were no longer banned.
He served as director of professional ethics at the Public Service Commission before joining the SAHRC.
Mushwana said the SAHRC was conferring with Baai's family about the funeral arrangements, and these would be announced in due course.
He extended the Commission's condolences to Baai's loved ones and said his death was a loss to human rights and to South Africa. - Sapa