The former vice-president of the South African Rugby Football Union (SARFU) and International Rugby Board executive board member passed away on Monday night in East London in the Eastern Cape province, at the age of 72. As an established politician, the late Mr George also served as an ANC MP and Deputy Minister of Defence.

Mr Alexander described the pioneering sports administrator as a “sport bridge builder” and pivotal figure in the historical negotiation process to unify the fractured South African sports landscape.

“He was genuinely one of the icon figures of our historic sports unification process, and we know of course that rugby was closest to his heart,” said Mr Alexander.

“Mluleki was a colossal, calming figure during a very turbulent time in the fight for freedom and the ensuing transition period to a democratic South Africa.

“On behalf of the South African rugby community, I want to offer our most sincere condolences to the George family and his wide circle of friends.

“He was very principled man, a skilful negotiator and will always be remembered for his unselfish fight for human rights and the dignity of all people in South Africa.”

The late Mr George, who was born on 2 February 1948, was Secretary of KADRU in 1973 and president of the Border Rugby Union until his arrest in 1976, and in 1978 he was sentenced to five years as a political prisoner on Robben Island.

Mr George was a founder member of United Democratic Front (UDF) in 1983, one of the founding members of the National Sports Council (NSC) in 1988 and a founder and executive member of National Olympic Committee of South Africa (NOCSA) in 1989.

He served as vice-president of the South African Rugby Football Union (SARFU) from 1993 until 1998, and was also a member of the International Rugby Board from 1994 to 1997. Mr George was appointed as Board member of the South African Rugby Union (SARU) in 2003.

As a senior ANC LP in Parliament, Mr George also served as an alternate member of Portfolio Committees on Minerals and Energy, Correctional Services and Intelligence from 1994 to 1999; a Chairperson of ANC East London/King William’s Town Region from 1996 until 1999; and as a Chairperson of Parliamentary Portfolio Committee of Safety and Security from 1999 to 2004.