Ramaphosa pays tribute to Iran’s president killed in helicopter crash

The Presidency has sent its condolences following the tragic news of the death of Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi.

Raisi was killed along with Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian and other officials in a helicopter crash in Iran’s remote northwest on Sunday.

Their deaths injected fresh uncertainty as the country’s hardline clerical establishment navigated rising regional tensions and domestic discontent.

According to reports, the 63-year-old Raisi and Amir-Abdollahian were returning from a ceremony for the opening of a dam on Iran’s border with Azerbaijan.

Condolences to the supreme leader

Among those onboard were three crew members: the governor of eastern Azerbaijan province, an imam, Raisi’s head of security, and a bodyguard, according to IRGC-run media outlet Sepah.

President Cyril Ramaphosa expressed his profound sadness over the news and sent condolences to the Islamic Republic of Iran’s supreme leader, the country’s leadership, and its citizens on behalf of South Africa.

“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,” said the Presidency in a statement.

Ramaphosa, who, as deputy president, paid a working visit to Iran in November 2015, said South Africa’s hearts go out to the affected families and the administration of the Islamic Republic of Iran.

Remarkable leader

“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 [Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa] fold in Johannesburg in 2023. We join Iran in this moment of mourning.”

The loss of two of Iran’s most influential political figures comes as the country buckles under significant economic and political strain.

Footage from the drone of the helicopter wreckage taken by the Red Crescent and carried on Iranian state media showed the crash site on a steep, wooded hillside, with little remaining of the helicopter beyond a blue and white tail.

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