Veteran diplomat George Nene hailed as 'special patriot'

Veteran diplomat George Nene hailed as 'special patriot'

Tributes are pouring in following the late diplomatic veteran's passing on Friday night.

George Nene

A loving father, "special patriot", and top diplomat. Those are just some of the phrases used to describe the late veteran diplomat Sipho George Nene.


He died at No. 1 Military Hospital in Tshwane on Friday night from a stroke after a short illness.


He was 69.


"We have lost one of our best diplomats at a time when we still need their experience and wisdom," International Relations Minister Lindiwe Sisulu said in a statement.


The president has also paid tribute: "Through his leadership in our diplomatic service, Ambassador Nene was instrumental in preparing South Africa's emerging diplomatic representatives for the dynamics and demands of a rapidly changing world. His contribution therefore lives on South Africa's regional, continental and global relations."


Nene, who retired only two years ago, was South Africa's first High Commissioner to Nigeria.


He also served as ambassador to Switzerland, represented South Africa at the United Nations, and worked as the Deputy Director-General Multilateral at the Department of International Relations and Cooperation (DIRCO).


At the time of his death, Nene served as the chairperson of the South African Association of Former Ambassadors.


From matric to retirement


Fellow diplomat and life-long friend Welile Nhlapo says he knew Nene from their school days, and saw him regularly in the days before his death.


Nhlapo says they completed matric together and became roommates at the University of Zululand before both going into exile.


"So I've been with him through and through," said the former ambassador to the US. "Even after our retirement, actually, we were almost together every day."


Both were still involved in the training of young diplomats.


Nene would have turned 70 on the 12th of June.


Nhlapo, who's birthday is in May, says they were planning to have a joint birthday in the days leading up to Nene's death.


His family says they will miss him dearly, adding "to us, he was a loving Father, an exceptional source of knowledge, wisdom and happiness".


The family says Nene was always devoted to his loved ones as well as the people of South Africa.


DIRCO says it will communicate the details of Nene's memorial service and funeral during the course of the coming week.

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