KUALA LUMPUR - South Africa is indebted to Malaysia for supporting the late Nelson Mandela in his fight against apartheid in his country.
South Africa's High Commissioner to Malay-sia T. D. Mseleku said even as his country mourned Mandela's passing, it remembered Malaysia's role with gratitude.
"Even as we mourn the passing of the icon, we remember with gratitude the role played by former and present Malaysian leaders in securing his release from prison and for supporting the birth of the democratic South Africa," he said.
In 1990, former Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad welcomed Mandela to Malaysia mere months after he was released from prison.
Dr Mahathir had said that Mandela, who passed away on Friday, was the leader that he admired the most.
Mseleku, 52, who first met Mandela after he was released from prison and later served in his administration, said he had come to regard the leader as an "astounding father figure" with the ability to remember personal details.
"He always remembered our last conversations and always asked about my children. Despite being president (then), Mandela was very personable and could put everyone he spoke to at ease.
"It was as if you were the most important person to him at that time," said Mseleku, adding that the last time he met Mandela was in 2001 when he was serving as the permanent secretary to the country's Education Ministry.
At that time, Mseleku said Mandela, who was no longer the country's president, had come to meet a minister over an issue in his area.
"He had told the minister then that he was not trying to influence his decision but was humbly conveying the concerns of the people he was representing," said Mseleku, who is currently back in South Africa.
He said the High Commission would announce the arrangement for the public to join it in remembering Mandela in the following days.
The South African flag was lowered to half-mast outside the High Commission at Menara HLA in Jalan Kia Peng on Friday.