PETALING JAYA (THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK): Nelson Mandela was a truly great leader with incredible fortitude and an unflinching dedication to the cause of social justice, ex-prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamed said.
Paying tribute to the former South African president who died in Johannesburg Thursday night after a prolonged illness, Dr Mahathir described Mandela as a forgiving person.
"He bore no animosity towards those who had imprisoned him and all he cared about was reconciliation and the sharing of his country's wealth and opportunities between blacks and whites," Dr Mahathir said in a statement on Friday.
"Few in the world have exhibited this kind of magnanimity.
"Whenever I am asked who I admire most among the leaders I have met, I have no hesitation in naming Nelson Mandela."
Dr Mahathir said the passing of his dear friend was received with great sadness and a deep sense of loss.
"His passing is a great personal loss to me and to all African people."
Mandela, who gained global recognition for being instrumental in pushing for the eradication of apartheid policies in South Africa, won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1993.
He is also the first recipient of the Mahathir for Global Peace Award.
Meanwhile, the Malaysian government sent their condolences to the South African government and Mandela's family. Minister of Federal Territories Tengku Adnan Tengku Mansor and Energy Minister Maximus Ongkili will travel to pay their final respects, a statement issued by the Foreign Affairs ministry said.