Mogoeng: Ambrosini an astute jurist

Johannesburg - Inkatha Freedom Party MP Mario Oriani-Ambrosini will be remembered as an astute jurist, Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng said on Saturday.

"Dr Ambrosini will be remembered as an astute jurist and we were still looking forward to his continued contribution in the country’s intellectual discourse on our Constitution," he said in a statement.

"Despite his ill-health, he remained steadfast in his convictions as a human rights activist of note."

Oriani-Ambrosini died on Saturday at the age of 53 after battling a rare form of inoperable lung cancer.

Mogoeng said South Africa was all the poorer at his passing and but hoped that his life’s work would continue to inspire the youth and instil in them the kind of constitutional activism that characterised his life.

"On behalf of the Judiciary in our country, I wish to thank his wife and children for having allowed us to share this giant of a man and I trust they will find strength in knowing that he ran a good race," he said.

‘Tenacious in pursuing issues’

Parliament also paid tribute to him and said Oriani-Ambrosini fought a valiant battle against cancer.

"We extend heartfelt condolences to his family, friends and his party, the IFP," it said in a statement.

"He was tenacious in pursuing issues about which he felt strongly."

Oriani-Ambrosini first became a Member of Parliament in 2009.

Earlier this year, after the 7 May elections, a very frail Oriani-Ambrosini lifted himself out of his wheelchair with the help of an ornate walking stick a year after announcing his diagnosis and read the oath of Parliament in his thick Italian accent.

The African National Congress and the Democratic Alliance also expressed sadness at the news of his death.

"Dr Ambrosini succumbed to his well documented fight against cancer, leaving behind a legacy of courageous determination in the face of adversity," ANC spokesperson Zizi Kodwa said in a statement.

‘A fierce and outspoken debater’

ANC chief whip Stone Sizani said Oriani-Ambrosini was no ordinary politician.

"Although we did not always agree with his political views, we held him in high regard for his constitutional expertise, remarkable experience on governance matters and for the contribution he made to our democratic transition process as an advisor to IFP leader Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi," Sizani said in a statement.

"He was a fierce and outspoken debater, a seasoned negotiator, a principled legislator and a passionate politician."

The DA said the country had lost a great man who would be missed.

"He was a fighter for human rights and democracy, a person of integrity who understood and advanced our cause, and a powerful friend," DA federal chairperson Wilmot James said in a statement.

"Mario will be remembered for his unparalleled contribution to Parliament and the defence of our freedom and the Constitution."