A spokesperson for the family of Dullah Omar said in a statement that the transport minister had died at 4am on Saturday.

Spokesperson John Ernstzen said Omar, who was diagnosed with Hodgkins disease 15 months ago, had fought the illness bravely. When he finally succumbed at the Constantiaberg Medi-Clinic in Cape Town on Saturday, he was surrounded by family and friends.

Ernstzen said: "Ever since Minister Omar was diagnosed he was quite ill at various points, frequently requiring hospitalisation. Each time he fought back bravely, determined to live life to the full and to work in the interests in improving the quality of life of the poorest of the poor."

He said the minister had devoted himself to the service of others whether in his capacity as attorney, academic, political activist, champion of workers' rights or cabinet minister.

"Minister Omar lived his life with humility and his lifestyle remained remarkably modest."

"His life and work is exemplary to all South Africans. We all mourn his loss very, very deeply. The best tribute to Minister Omar is to live life as he did, selflessly in the service of others."

Ernstzen said as a serving minister Omar would be given an "official" funeral. - Sapa