OXFORDSHIRE’S political, religious and community leaders have paid tribute to Nelson Mandela, described as a “true global hero”.

Following the former South African president’s death on Thursday, people from across the county paid their respects to the 95-year-old.

And prayers were offered in thanksgiving for Mr Mandela at Oxford’s Christ Church Cathedral yesterday morning.

Prime Minister and Witney MP David Cameron said: “A great light has gone out in the world. Nelson Mandela was a towering figure in our time; a legend in life and now in death – a true global hero.”

Oxford City Council leader Bob Price met Nelson Mandela in Oxford in June 1997, when Mr Mandela was awarded the Freedom of the City.

He said: “I was lucky enough to spend over an hour with him and his family in the Lord Mayor’s Parlour after the ceremony. His personal charm, graciousness and human warmth were extraordinary. He was interested in everything to do with the city, especially young people. It was an unforgettable moment for Oxford.”

Lord Mayor of Oxford Dee Sinclair, who lived in South Africa in the 1970s, said: “It was with deep sadness I heard of the passing of Nelson Mandela.

“Having lived in South Africa for a number of years and visited again only very recently, I am aware of the profound influence he has had in that country and beyond. He was much loved and respected across racial divides and his legacy lives on in the South African constitution.”

Dr Basil Mustafa, Nelson Mandela fellow at the Oxford Centre for Islamic Studies, met Mr Mandela when he visited the centre in 1997. He also met him in London in 2002 and at Rhodes House, Oxford, in 2003.

He said: “We were very saddened to hear of his death. He was certainly a world leader of great stature and the whole world will miss him a great deal.”

Ann Ducker, leader of South Oxfordshire District Council, had a business in South Africa from the early 1970s until 2005.

She said: “I think Nelson Mandela has been a fantastic example for the rest of the world.”

Barry Norton, leader of West Oxfordshire District Council, said: “Nelson Mandela’s sad passing is a great loss to the South African nation. His forgiving attitude after 27 years in prison was paramount in unifying divisions in his country in a way that puts him on a pedestal with the very best of the world’s leaders.”

Didcot and Wantage MP Ed Vaizey said: “Nelson Mandela was the greatest statesman of our age and perhaps any age. Imprisoned by a barbaric regime for 27 years he emerged not as a bitter man bent on revenge but as a great healer and leader.

“He brought his country in to the light as a democracy and served as it’s president. His story has inspired millions of people from every walk of life, and he has shown how love is the most powerful force in the world.”

Banbury MP Tony Baldry said: “I think it’s impossible to quantify the transformative impact Nelson Mandela had on South Africa and Africa as a whole.”

Oxford West and Abingdon MP Nicola Blackwood, who was born in South Africa, said: “The fact that we are all struggling to put into words the transformational impact of Mandela’s life is a fitting tribute. He defied the rules: met injustice with forgiveness, conflict with reconciliation and division with unifying leadership. It is up to all of us now to honour his life’s work by continuing to fight oppression and human rights abuses wherever we find them”.

Oxford University Vice- Chancellor Prof Andrew Hamilton added: “We mourn the passing of an extraordinary man, whose life and example has the power to teach us all.”

The Rhodes Trust, which was connected to Mr Mandela through The Mandela Rhodes Foundation, a leadership development programme for Africa, held a remembrance service at Rhodes House in South Parks Road, Oxford, yesterday.