Sydney – Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott on Friday hailed Nelson Mandela as “a truly great man” after the anti-apartheid hero died in South Africa aged 95.
“Nelson Mandela was one of the great figures of Africa, arguably one of the great figures of the last century,” Abbott told Fairfax radio, referring to him as the father of modern South Africa.
“A truly great man.”
In an official statement, the prime minister said Mandela “will forever be remembered as more than a political leader, he was a moral leader”.
“He spent much of his life standing against the injustice of apartheid.
“When that fight was won, he inspired us again by his capacity to forgive and reconcile his country.
“While the world may never see another Nelson Mandela, he has inspired countless men and women throughout the world to live more courageous and honest lives.”
Mandela, who was elected South Africa's first black president after spending nearly three decades in prison, had been receiving treatment for a lung infection at his Johannesburg home since September, after three months in hospital in a critical state.
His condition deteriorated and he died following complications from the lung infection, with his family by his side.
Former Australian prime minister Malcolm Fraser, among the first international figures to visit Mandela in prison as chairman of the Commonwealth Group of Eminent Persons in 1986, said his death was a loss to the world.
“We need to remember his achievements and his essential character, which made those achievements possible,” he wrote in pre-prepared piece for the Sydney Morning Herald.
“We can learn from his example. He leaves a legacy that all subsequent leaders should seek to emulate.”