Nadine Gordimer at her 80th birthday celebration. File pic: Thobeka Zazi Ndabula

Johannesburg - Wits University was greatly saddened by the death of Nobel Laureate and writer Nadine Gordimer, vice-chancellor Adam Habib said on Monday.

He referred to Gordimer as one of the university's most illustrious alumni, a great South African writer and one of the world's most esteemed literary figures.

“The university wishes to extend its sincerest condolences to her family, friends and the entire South African literary and academic community.”

He said Gordimer was a dear friend to Wits, maintaining a lifelong connection to the university, and giving generously of her time.

“She often appeared on campus to participate in colloquia and alumni events,” Habib said.

“In addition, the Nadine Gordimer Lectures brought other luminaries such as Susan Sontag, Amartya Sen and Carlos Fuentes to Wits.”

Habib said Gordimer studied at Wits where she mixed for the first time with fellow professionals from diverse racial, class and national backgrounds.

She received an honorary doctorate in literature from the university in 1984, in recognition of her immense contribution to literature and the transformation of South African society.

“As a Nobel Prize-winning author, a powerful political activist, and a revered intellect, she epitomised all that Wits University holds dear,” Habib said.

“She will be greatly missed by the Wits community.”

Earlier on Monday, law firm Edward Nathan Sonnenbergs said in a statement on behalf of the Gordimer family: “Her son Hugo and daughter Oriane and her caring helpers were with her... A private memorial service will be announced at a later date.”

It said she died “peacefully in her sleep at home in Johannesburg on Sunday”.