Zimbabwe's President Emmerson Mnangagwa has conveyed his condolences to the family of the late opposition leader, Morgan Tsvangirai, who died on Wednesday after a battle with cancer.
Tsvangirai, 65, who founded the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) in 1999, was among the most prominent critics of former president Robert Mugabe, the longtime authoritarian leader who was ousted from power in November.
In a statement, Mnangagwa said that the late veteran opposition leader would be remembered for his "readiness to stretch and reach out across the political divide for a government of national unity after the polarising 2008 elections".
Mnangagwa described Tsvangirai as a national figure who "obdurately insisted on free, fair, credible and non-violent elections in his bid to strengthen the country's democracy and re-engagement with the international community".
Mnangagwa pledged to hold a free and fair election in honour of the veteran leader. Zimbabwe is set to go to the polls before July.
"Whatever other controversial decisions he and his [party] may have made in the past, we all remember him for his insistence on free, fair and peaceful elections, which we must validate in the forthcoming 2018 harmonised elections in tribute to him and to our democracy," Mnanagagwa said.
"This we owe him as political leaders of all contesting parties in our country, which deserves unfettered peace and stability. As part of building political consensus in the country ahead of the harmonised elections, I shall soon be inviting leaders of all political parties for a day-long consultative meeting."
Meanwhile, Mnangagwa's deputy, Constantino Chiwenga, also expressed his "sadness" over Tsvangirai's death, pledging to honour the "great son of the soil".
According to the privately owned NewZimbabwe.com, Chiwenga said: "We are saddened by the death of MT. We will sit and see how Zimbabweans can honour that great son of the soil," Chiwenga said.
Mnangagwa and Chiwenga visited Tsvangirai at his home in January – just before the opposition leader left for medical treatment in South Africa.
Their visit was a symbolic gesture, as the governing Zanu-PF party and the military had vilified Tsvangirai for decades, calling him "a puppet of the West".