A file picture taken in 2010 of former British Prime Minister, Baroness Margaret Thatcher.

Johannesburg - South African politicians and political parties reacted with sadness at the death of former British prime minister Margaret Thatcher on Monday.

President Jacob Zuma conveyed his condolences to the British people on behalf of South Africa's government and people.

“Our thoughts and prayers are with the family of Lady Thatcher and the people of the United Kingdom during this difficult time,” he said, according to the international relations department.

The African National Congress said Thatcher's death signalled the end of a generation of leaders in office during the difficult period characterised by the dynamics of the Cold War.

Spokesman Jackson Mthembu said her tenure as prime minister redefined British politics and public administration, which affected European politics and governance. While Thatcher refused to recognise the ANC during apartheid, the ANC acknowledged she was a strong leader.

“She was one of the strong leaders in Britain and Europe, to an extent that some of her policies dominate discourse in the public service structures of the world,” said Mthembu.

Former president FW de Klerk said Thatcher had a better grasp of South Africa's complexities and geo-strategic realities than many of her contemporaries.

A steadfast critic of apartheid, she consistently and correctly believed much more could be achieved through constructive engagement with the South African government, than through draconian sanctions and isolation, De Klerk said in a statement. She had understood the need to consider the concerns and aspirations of all South Africans in their search for constitutional consensus.

“For this reason, she was able to play a positive role in supporting our own process of non-racial constitutional transformation in South Africa,” he said.

“She will be remembered not only as one of Britain's greatest prime ministers, but also as a leader whose policies and approach had a significant impact on politics throughout the world,” De Klerk said.

The Freedom Front Plus said Thatcher was a formidable politician who broke the power of Britain's trade unions.

“Baroness Thatcher was the only female prime minister to date in British history.... She will be remembered for her strong views against communism and socialism,” spokesman Corne Mulder said in a statement.

Mulder said she and former United States president Ronald Reagan, who died in 2004, played a large role in the destruction of communism.

Inkatha Freedom Party leader Mangosuthu Buthelezi said: “I am devastated by the news of 1/8Baroness 3/8 Margaret Thatcher's passing this 1/8Monday 3/8 morning.

“She is an iconic figure in world history, being the first female prime minister of the United Kingdom, the woman who reversed her nation's decline following World War II, saw victory in the Falklands War, won three elections, and served her country from 1979 to 1990.”

However, first and foremost in Buthelezi's mind, Thatcher remained a friend. The former prime minister would forever command Buthelezi's respect and admiration, not only for her leadership in the United Kingdom, but also on the global stage.

“She was a voice of reason during apartheid and listened attentively to my plea against sanctions and economic disinvestment, which we both recognised would hurt the poorest of our people the most,” the IFP president said.

Buthelezi visited Thatcher at 10 Downing Street in 1986. She in turn travelled to Ulundi to visit Buthelezi, who was then chief minister of the then KwaZulu government.

He said never before had an international dignitary shown such respect for black leadership.

“Her illness in her later years has been difficult to accept, and her death will be more difficult still.”

Thatcher died on Monday morning from a stroke. She was 87. - Sapa