Hermanus Loots described as a hero

Late struggle stalwart Hermanus Loots has been hailed as a hero by those he had worked closely with during the struggle and later in government.

Speaking at his memorial service at the Johannesburg City Hall, Human Settlements Minister Lindiwe Sisulu described him as a man who was always committed to his work. In exile, Minister Sisulu and Loots served in the ANC Intelligence structure.

"Mr Loots was best known for his work� although Mr Loots was not well known, he played a major role in the struggle and in government," she said.

Minister Sisulu said Loots played a vital role during the structuring of the South African National Defence Force (SANDF).

The Dean of the Diplomatic Corps, Ben Mpoko, described Loots as a man who was a fearless fighter. "We remember his as a real hero. We will also remember him as a master of all languages."

Former Speaker of Parliament Max Sisulu described Loots as a man of action. "I also remember him as an honest and ambitious man. He was a man of his word."

He said Loots was a man who was always ready to assist.

Loots, who was famously known as James Stuart, served as a Member of Parliament in the first democratic Parliament from 1994 to 1999 following the first democratic elections in 1994.

He was recruited into the African National Congress military wing, Umkhonto we Sizwe, in 1961. He underwent military training in Odessa, Kishinev and Moscow. He served in the ANC NEC during 1985 - 1990 under the presidency of Oliver Tambo.

He became a Member of Parliament under the presidency of Nelson Mandela. He served in Parliament from 1994 - 1999 and was also on the Joint Standing Committees of Defence.

When he retired in 1999, he pursued his interests in the private sector. Loots provided advisory services to a number of government entities and sat on the boards of private sector organisations.

As an NEC member, he was appointed as the Secretary of the External Coordinating Committee. He also participated in negotiations as part of the ANC team after the organisation's unbanning.

Government officials, politicians and members of the public came in large numbers to pay their last respects to the fallen struggle hero.

President Jacob Zuma has declared a Special Official Funeral for Loots, who passed away on 25 January. The President has also ordered that the National Flag at all flag stations in the country be flown at half-mast from Monday, 1 February, until the day of the funeral on Saturday, to mark respect for Loots.