Condolences continue to pour in for anti-apartheid activist and Minister in the Presidency, Jackson Mthembu, who died on Thursday morning due to Covid-19 complications.
Mthembu tested positive for Covid-19 earlier this month, and government called on those who had come in contact with him to self-quarantine.
He was the fourth member of the executive who had tested positive that week.
Announcing Mthembu’s passing on Thursday, President Cyril Ramaphosa said: “It is with deep sorrow and shock that we announce that Minister in the Presidency Jackson Mthembu passed away earlier today from Covid-related complications.
Minister Mthembu was an exemplary leader, an activist and life-long champion of freedom and democracy. He was a much-loved and greatly respected colleague and comrade, whose passing leaves our nation at a loss.
— Cyril Ramaphosa ???????? #StaySafe (@CyrilRamaphosa) January 21, 2021
Mourning Mthembu’s passing, the ANC said its national executive committtee (NEC) member had “dedicated his entire life to the struggle for a better South Africa and world”.
The governing party said Mthembu played a critical role in the mass democratic movement, including the United Democratic Front and the party’s underground structures in the then Eastern Transvaal.
“His consistency and ability to engage and win over even those who disagreed with him, saw Mvelase [his clan name] excel in the communications machinery of the ANC, eventually serving as its national spokesperson and the chief whip of the ANC in Parliament. In these tasks he excelled as expected and did his work with diligence, commitment and with attention to detail.
“Mvelase’s contribution in the NEC was always considered, aimed at genuine exchange of ideas and finding solutions, always passionately committed to the betterment of South Africa’s people, especially the poor and marginalised.
“As a revolutionary cadre he understood the importance of self-criticism, always willing to admit if he made mistakes and self-correct. We all remember his sense of humour, his firmness and humility.
In all the positions that he served over the years, as youth activist, civic and community leader, in the ANC and government as MEC in Mpumalanga, as member of Parliament, as ANC chief whip, as minister in the presidency, he led with distinction and honour,” party spokesperson Pule Mabe said in a statement.
The ANC sent its condolences to Mthembu’s family, friends, colleagues and comrades.
DA MP Solly Malatsi said Mthembu was not only a “rare exception” as a politician but “was a wonderful gentleman” as well.
Jackson Mthembu was a rare exception amongst Ministers as he valued accountability dearly and never shied away from difficult questions. He had an impeccable knack for banter that could defrost the most tense moments between political opponents #JacksonMthembu
— SollyMalatsi (@SollyMalatsi) January 21, 2021
Malatsi said as a politician, Mthembu made an effort to understand various matters placed before the portfolio committee in which he sat, was open to political debate, was able to pull people together and showed the same level of professionalism across the board to his fellow comrades and politicians or parliamentarians on opposition benches.
Messages of condolences following Mthembu’s passing were shared on social media by Thursday afternoon.
Devastated to learn of the passing of Minister Jackson Mthembu. Was such an honour to serve alongside this true South African patriot. Condolences to his family and friends and the colleagues in his party. May his soul rest in peace. pic.twitter.com/z2EDUsPq7W
— John Steenhuisen MP (@jsteenhuisen) January 21, 2021
ActionSA leader Herman Mashaba tweeted: “We must not allow politics to forget our humanity. Giants are falling to this disease. May he rest in peace.”
My condolences to family and colleagues of Jackson Mthembu.
We must not allow politics to forget our humanity. Giants are falling to this disease.
May he rest in peace???? pic.twitter.com/fBMDr0Fakw
— Herman Mashaba (@HermanMashaba) January 21, 2021
PAC Statement on the passing of Minister #JacksonMthembu
21 January 2021 pic.twitter.com/9UzxXsNkdw
— Pan-Africanist Congress (PAC) (@PAC_SouthAfrica) January 21, 2021
The Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) also paid tribute to Mthembu, describing the minister as “a true servant of the people”.
“The dedication of Minister Jackson Mthembu was demonstrated through his principled participation in the struggle against the nonsensical apartheid regime, as a students’ leader, a youth activist, as workers’ leader, community leader and certainly without entitlement for individual benefits.
“He understood that his participation in the struggle was for a common good and for the people, not for individual benefits and glory.
“Comrade Jackson Mthembu almost always rose above factional politics, and never felt entitled to any leadership responsibility. He was a true servant of the people.”