Pretoria - Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe has described former Minister of Health Dr Manto Tshabalala-Msimang as a hero who dedicated her adult life to the service of humanity.
The 69-year-old Tshabalala-Msimang who later served as Minister in the Presidency died last Wednesday after a long battle with a liver ailment.
Speaking at her memorial service at the Pretoria City Hall on Monday, Motlanthe said that with the death of Tshabalala-Msimang South Africans had lost a comrade and a cadre.
"I speak with no hyperbole when I say that Sis' Manto's death marks the end of a chapter in the history of the struggle," Motlanthe said.
Among the dignitaries present were Health Minister Dr Aaron Motsoaledi and his deputy Dr Molefi Sefularo, National Planning Commission Minister Trevor Manuel, Speaker of Parliament's National Assembly Max Sisulu, Former Deputy President Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka and Tshwane Mayor Gwen Ramokgopa.
Tshabalala-Msimang's family including husband Mendi Msimang sat in the front row. Several rows behind them sat nurses in full uniform. Members of the National Association of People With Aids (Napwa) were also there.
Outside a giant screen detailing the events of what was happening was placed for those who could not be accommodated inside the hall. Pictures of the late minister were projected onto screens while songs like "Spirit of Manto, long live" were sung.
Motlanthe said her detractors would do well to go back in time and learn the remarkable sacrifices she had made, including the creation of freedom of speech in our country.
He said her life reflected her deepening commitment at every point to make her contribution to the betterment of humanity.
The official funeral service was set to take place at the Cathedral Church of the Sacred Heart in Pretoria at 10am after which the former minister's body would be cremated in Benoni.