OBITUARY: Key moments in Jackson Mthembu’s political career

Minister in the Presidency Jackson Mthembu. Picture: GCIS

Mthembu died on Thursday morning after having tested positive for Covid-19 earlier this month. The minister was 62 at the time of his death.

President Cyril Ramaphosa on Thursday announced that Minister in the Presidency Jackson Mthembu had died from Covid-19 complications.

ALSO READ: Jackson Mthembu dies from Covid-19 complications

Mthembu died on Thursday morning after having tested positive for Covid-19 earlier this month. The minister was 62 at the time of his death.

Below is a brief profile of the key moments in Mthembu’s political career:

  • According to the Presidency’s website, Jackson Mphikwa Mthembu was born in Witbank (Emalahleni) in 1958 in Mpumalanga.
  • Mthembu began his career in student politics in the 1970s. He was a student leader at Elukhanyisweni Secondary School in Witbank during the 1976 student uprisings.
  • He continued his activism when he was a student at the historic University of Fort Hare, which resulted in his expulsion in 1980.
  • Mthembu also contributed to the formation of the then Metal and Allied Workers Union (MAWU) – the predecessor of the National Union of Metal Workers of South Africa (Numsa) – in which he became a senior shop steward at Highveld Steel Corporation where he worked as a training officer. He was later promoted to be one of the first few black steel production foremen in the industry.
  • During the state of emergency in the 1980s, Mthembu went though constant harassment and persecution from the security forces of the apartheid regime, which resulted in him spending several months in detentions without trial, mostly in solitary confinement.
  • His house in Witbank was also petrol bombed and he was subjected to various forms of torture at police stations.
  • Mthembu was charged with sabotage, treason and terrorism between 1986 and 1988, and tried together with 30 other activists from Witbank in a trial that became known as the Bethal terrorism trial. He was later acquitted of the charges.
  • He was elected as the deputy regional secretary of the United Democratic Front (UDF) in the then PWV region (now Gauteng province) under the leadership of the late ANC struggle veteran Albertina Sisulu.
  • After the unbanning of political parties in 1990 by the apartheid government, Mthembu was entrusted with the responsibility of leading the Witbank branch of the ANC.
  • Between 1990 and 1994, Mthembu worked full-time as ANC spokesperson in Mpumalanga and participated as part of the ANC staff component at the Codesa negotiations.
  • He has served in several strategic roles including as a member of the ANC Mpumalanga provincial executive committee. And he has been a member of the ANC’s highest decision-making body, national executive committee (NEC), since 2007.
  • After the first democratic elections in 1994, Mthembu was part of the first ANC MPs who were deployed in the then Senate (now National Council of Provinces), where he contributed to the crafting of the country’s Constitution under the leadership of President Cyril Ramaphosa.
  • He was later appointed as the MEC for public works, roads and transport in Mpumalanga, serving under the premierships of Mathews Phosa and Thabang Makwetla.
  • Mthembu was the national spokesperson of the ANC under then president Nelson Mandela from 1995 and 1997. He was also appointed to the same role again from 2009 to 2014 under former president Jacob Zuma.
  • He served as the chief whip of the governing party in the National Assembly from 2016 up to the end of the fifth term of Parliament in 2019.
  • After the 2019 general elections, Mthembu was appointed as the Minister in the Presidency.

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