Mbeki addressed mourners at Klaasen’s funeral service in Eden Park on the East Rand on Friday.
The cultural struggle heroine died aged 86 after a battle with pancreatic cancer.
Mbeki said Klaasen offered an outstanding service to the people of South Africa.
“And so that’s why in 2006, we decided that Thandi Klaasen should get the order of the Baobab in Gold, the highest order in terms of service to the people.”
Ekurhuleni Mayor Mzwandile Masina described the songbird as a “true African gem”.
“I urge all SA artists to draw strength and inspiration from this icon. Let’s emulate her legacy through encouraging the younger generation to pursue a passion in arts,” he said.
Also speaking at the funeral, Arts and Culture Minister Nathi Mthethwa called on South Africans to not only honour artists after their deaths.
Mthethwa said Klaasen’s death had left a gaping hole in the music industry.
“You embrace love and hope in music. You asserted a proud and defined love for humanity and what it means to be human.
“Your songs contributed to the making of the memory of our people. It was not only nostalgic, but also an assertion of a people’s culture,” he said.
INDEPENDENT ON SATURDAY