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By Faizel Patel

Senior Digital Journalist

‘Unthinkable tragedy’: Ramaphosa mourns passing of ‘remarkable’ Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi

The helicopter carrying Raisi was one of three travelling in a convoy on Sunday in thick fog in Iran’s East Azerbaijan province.

President Cyril Ramaphosa conveyed South Africa’s condolences on the death of Iran’s President Ebrahim Raisi.

Raisi, Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian and several others including the Governor of Eastern Azerbaijan province Malek Rahmati, Tabriz’s Imam Mohammad Ali Alehashem were killed in a helicopter crash on Sunday.

The helicopter, one of three travelling in a convoy, crashed on Sunday in thick fog in Iran’s East Azerbaijan province.


Ramaphosa’s spokesperson Vincent Magwenya said the president is “deeply saddened” by the air disaster that claimed the lives of Raisi, Abdollahian and others.

“On behalf of the government and people of South Africa, President Ramaphosa offers his deep condolences to the Supreme Leader of Iran, The Grand Ayatollah Sayyid Ali Khamenei, the government and people of the Islamic Republic.

“President Ramaphosa’s thoughts are with the families of the late president and foreign minister as well as the relatives of the personnel and air crew who perished,” Magwenya said.

ALSO READ: WATCH: Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi, foreign minister killed in helicopter crash

Iran visit

Ramaphosa, who was deputy president at the time, paid a working visit to Iran in November 2015.

“This is an extraordinary, unthinkable tragedy that has claimed a remarkable leader of a nation with whom South Africa enjoys strong bilateral relations and whom we were honoured to welcome to the BRICS fold in Johannesburg in 2023.

“Our hearts go out to the affected families and the administration of the Islamic Republic of Iran. We join Iran in this moment of mourning,” Ramaphosa said.

Without disruption

Meanwhile, Iran’s vice-president Mohammad Mokhber will assume the powers of the presidency with new elections expected to be held within 30 days.

Iran’s Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei said the government will operate “without disruption” after President Raisi’s death.

In a speech following Sunday’s dam inauguration, Raisi emphasised Iran’s support for Palestinians, a centrepiece of its foreign policy since the 1979 Islamic revolution.

Raisi has been president of the Islamic Republic since 2021 when he succeeded the moderate Hassan Rouhani, for a term during which Iran has faced crisis and conflict.

ALSO READ: WATCH: ‘Israel intent on destroying Palestinian life’ – SA pushes for urgent ICJ action

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