Picture: @DIRCO_ZA/Twitter

Johannesburg - Former ambassador and ANC veteran Billy Modise has died, the Presidency confirmed on Thursday morning. 

Modise, who served as democratic South Africa's first black High Commissioner to Canada, died on Wednesday night at hospital following a long illness. He was 87. 

President Cyril Ramaphosa in a statement expressed his deepest condolences to Modise's family.

“Our country and our people have suffered a great loss in the passing of Ambassador Billy Modise. He served his country selflessly and diligently. He was a distinguished gentleman and leader of our people who contributed exceptionally to the achievement of a South Africa free of racial oppression and to the building of a non-racial, non-sexist and democratic country. 

"We wish to convey our deepest words of condolence to his family, friends and relatives as well as members of the Diplomatic Corps. May his soul rest in peace,” said Ramaphosa.

Modise was also the former Chief of State Protocol and recipient of the National Order of Luthuli.