General Constand Viljoen, a former chief of the defence force (SADF) during the apartheid era, died on Friday. He was 86.
Viljoen was also the founding leader of the Freedom Front Plus.
Former FF+ leader and MP Pieter Mulder confirmed Viljoen’s death on Twitter.
“My sympathy to his wife and children,” he said.
Mulder described Viljoen as a “brilliant general” who earned respect from soldiers by being with them on the front line.
FF+ leader Pieter Groenewald praised Viljoen, saying he left a “great and permanent mark on the history of SA”.
“He will always be remembered for two reasons: for being an excellent soldier, as well as a politician who played a significant role in the transition period since 1994,” he said.
He said Viljoen was a military leader who “believed that a general leads from the front and not from behind”.
He said that, as a politician, Viljoen “played a leading role in the political transition and to ensure stability in SA during that time of transition”.
“He often tried to use his military approach as politician as well. That evoked both positive and negative reactions. Positive, because his planning, his strategies and execution of political ideas were surely very valuable, but he sometimes also struggled as a result of his rigid, military style.
“I personally told him on several occasions that in the army, everyone must react immediately and jump to attention when the general gives an order. In politics, however, one cannot give orders, one can merely make a request,” said Groenewald.
In a statement, DA leader John Steenhuisen praised Viljoen for his role in ensuring peace in the early 1990s.
“Viljoen played an integral role in defusing the possible threat of armed violence ahead of our nation’s first democratic elections in 1994, and also made his mark in the political arena as one of the co-founders of the Freedom Front,” said Steenhuisen.