Johannesburg - Tributes flowed in on Thursday for business tycoon Dr Anton Rupert, who died in his sleep on Wednesday night.
President Thabo Mbeki said Dr Rupert played a pivotal role in the development of South Africa's industrial and commercial sectors.
In a message of sympathy Mbeki said he had learnt with sadness of the death of one of South Africa's legendary business stalwarts.
"Not only did he distinguish himself in the Afrikaner community, but also played a significant role in supporting and initiating significant transformation of South Africa's business.
"He was a pioneer in the establishment of South Africa's footprint in the global financial and commercial world. Not only will he be remembered for his business acumen, but also for his total devotion to nature and environmental conservation as shown by his immense contribution to the establishment of numerous transfrontier parks. A true philanthropist," said Mbeki.
The president conveyed his heartfelt condolences and sympathies to the Rupert family on the loss "of their beloved father and great South African".
"We extend our heartfelt condolences to his family and friends," UDM leader Bantu Holomisa said, adding that the UDM is saddened by the news of the passing away of Dr Anton Rupert.
"Our thoughts and prayers are with his family during this difficult time," Holomisa said.
He met Rupert for the first time during his tenure as deputy minister of environmental affairs.
Rupert struck him as a man deeply committed to preserving the natural heritage of South Africa and the region.
"His concern with the heritage of the country extended to large scale funding and development initiatives in the environmental, education, art and music fields.
"We salute him as an entrepreneur who built an international business empire from humble beginnings and who did not hesitate to reinvest in worthy causes.
Environmental Affairs Minister Marthinus van Schalkwyk said Dr Rupert will be remembered for his passionate commitment to conservation.
"His global business empire will stand as a testament to his commercial skills, but his most lasting legacy to the world will be the fruits of his passionate commitment to conservation.
"We will ensure that his work continues, and that his memory endures in the growth and success of southern African parks and protected areas," he said.
Van Schalkwyk said apart from Rupert's role in the creation of the WWF (World Wide Fund for Nature), he was instrumental in the establishment of the Peace Parks transfrontier conservation areas.
"He will always be celebrated as one of the greatest sons of South Africa, and his towering presence will be sorely missed.
"Our thoughts and prayers are with the Rupert family today as are our grateful thanks for having shared with us his energies and enthusiasm," he said.
Democratic Alliance (DA) leader Tony Leon said Dr Rupert was one of the great builders and architects of South Africa's many landscapes in business and industry, in the arts, nature and wildlife conservation.
In a statement Leon said: "In the best sense of the word, Dr Rupert was South Africa's renaissance man. He also had the presence and the courage during the darkest days of apartheid to see a non-racial future based on partnership.
"I regard it as a great privilege of my public and private life to have had the opportunity to have been exposed to his warmth and wisdom."
Leon extended his sympathy to Rupert's family. - Sapa/I-Net Bridge