SA President Nelson Mandela and his counterpart Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe in this May 21, 1997 file photo. Photo: Howard Burditt

Johannesburg - Zimbabwe's president Robert Mugabe sent condolences to South Africa and Nelson Mandela's family through a letter to President Jacob Zuma, The Herald in Zimbabwe reported on Saturday.

“...I would like to extend deep condolences to you and, through you to the government and people of the Republic of South Africa, on the death of the great icon of African liberation, freedom fighter and the first President of a free, independent and democratic South Africa, Mr Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela...,” he wrote.

“Not only was he a great champion of the emancipation of the oppressed, but he also was a humble and compassionate leader who showed selfless dedication to the service of his people.”

He continued: “We join the rest of the nation in mourning his departure. The late Nelson Mandela will forever remain in our minds as an unflinching fighter for justice.”

He asked Zuma to convey the message to the family of Mandela.

Ties between Zimbabwe and South Africa run “long and deep” and after independence in 1980, Zimbabwe hosted South African liberation fighters and supported its struggle against apartheid.

It said that according to former SA president Thabo Mbeki, Zimbabwe delayed its land reform revolution so that apartheid could be dealt with first. - Sapa