Indian-origin political leader dies in South Africa

Last Updated: Sat, Dec 31, 2011 05:40 hrs

Pretoria, Dec 31 (IANS) Indian-origin political activist Amichand Rajbansi, leader of the Minority Front party in South Africa, has died at the age of 69, state-run news agency BuaNews reported.

Rajbansi, nicknamed the 'Bengal Tiger', was a former chief minister of the House of Delegates Tricameral parliamentary chamber for Indian people, and founding member of the National People's Party, which later became the Minority Front.

The party said Rajbansi died Thursday at a hospital in Durban. He was admitted in October with bronchitis.

The African National Congress and Minority Front had an agreement that led to Rajbansi serving in the ANC-led KwaZulu-Natal cabinet from 2004 to 2009 as member of the executive council for sports and recreation.

Messages of condolences poured in from South Africa's political circles after his death.

Transport Minister Sibusiso Ndebele, who worked closely with the former sport and recreation member of the executive council Rajbansi when he was premier of KwaZulu-Natal, said: 'He will be surely missed. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family and loved ones during these difficult moments.'

African National Congress (ANC) spokesperson Jackson Mthembu said Rajbansi was a prominent and influential figure in South African politics.

'To many South Africans, Rajbansi was known for his near obsession on community issues and issues affecting minorities. This made him stand out as a politician and a community leader. He made his mark during the negotiations leading to a democratic dispensation in the country,' Mthembu said.

Rajbansi also distinguished himself in parliament as a representative of the Minority Front.

He was a 'practical leader' and also 'open-minded', he said. 'His absence in society and the political scene will be noticed.

eThekwini municipality mayor James Nxumalo said Rajbansi played a leading role in the establishment of democracy in South Africa.

'South African politics will never be the same without him and his contribution will be missed,' he said.

Democratic Alliance leader Helen Zille said Rajbansi helped bring 'coalition politics' to South Africa.

'He was one of the people who introduced the idea of coalition politics to South Africa by strategically aligning his party with others to achieve his objectives,' Zille said.

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