The death of struggle veteran and academic Neville Alexander is a great loss to the leftwing intellectual community, Minister of Higher Education and Training Blade Nzimande said on Tuesday.
"I had a lot of respect for Neville, for his contribution in the struggle for liberation, even though we come from two different left traditions," Nzimande said in a statement.
"We often disagreed on many things. I deeply respected him as a committed socialist intellectual and activist."
The 75-year-old died at his home in Grassy Park, on the Cape Flats, on Monday.
Nzimande said he admired Alexander for having distinguished himself as an academic of note, and that he exemplified the necessity for elder academics to play a role in nurturing younger scholars.
"Neville's passing is a great loss, especially for the leftwing intellectual community, which for decades now has been suffocated by a rightwing, neo-liberal discourse and ideology," he said.
"It is an unfortunate coincidence that he passes on at a time when neo-liberalism is in deep ideological crisis, a moment which is fertile for the emergence of better and more humane ideas."
The National Education, Health and Allied Workers' Union (Nehawu) said it was greatly saddened by the news of Alexander's passing.
"Neville Alexander was a humble, dedicated, scholarly and revolutionary socialist, who never wavered in his commitment to freedom for the oppressed and justice for all," Nehawu said in a statement.
"He was an educator who was never class neutral, and engaged with thorny societal issues in a principled manner and without self doubt. He dedicated his life to fighting for justice... ."
Alexander was a former leader of the Workers' Organisation for Socialist Action.
South Africa was poorer without Alexander, but his legacy would inspire the next generation of socialists, Nehawu said.