Former British prime minister, Baroness Margaret Thatcher

Johannesburg - The news of former British prime minister Margaret Thatcher's death was devastating, Inkatha Freedom Party leader Mangosuthu Buthelezi said on Monday.

“I am devastated by the news of (Baroness) Margaret Thatcher's passing this (Monday) morning,” Buthelezi said in a statement.

“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.

“I was privileged to visit (Baroness) Thatcher at 10 Downing Street in 1986, and was honoured when she specifically travelled to Ulundi to visit me as the Chief Minister of the erstwhile KwaZulu government.”

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

“She displayed all the best features of a trailblazer; the courage of her convictions and a tenacious belief in doing what was necessary and right,” he said.

“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. - Sapa