He dedicated his entire life to the struggle for a better South Africa and the world, says ANC.
The passing of Minister in the Presidency Jackson Mthembu, who died on Thursday due to Covid-19-related complications, has been described as a sad loss to the country, the ANC and the fight against the pandemic.
Mthembu announced on 11 January he had been to One Military Hospital in Tshwane “to get medical attention for an abdominal pain”.
“After undergoing some tests, I tested positive for Covid-19. Plans are afoot to get all my family members and close associates
tested as well,” tweeted Jackson.
“I want to thank the many South Africans who have wished me a speedy recovery. As a people we must overcome Covid-19.”
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When challenged by someone that “the same people who tell us to wash our hands and wear masks every day are contracting Covid-19”, Mthembu said: “They are human too.”
President Cyril Ramaphosa confirmed that the minister’s death was due to Covid-19-related complications.
“Our thoughts and prayers are with his family at this time of loss,” said Ramaphosa.
“Minister Mthembu was an exemplary leader, an activist and life-long champion of freedom and democracy. He was a muchloved and greatly respected colleague and comrade whose passing leaves our nation at a loss.”
This is a double blow for the Mthembu household after the politician’s eldest daughter Khwezi committed suicide in September 2019.
Political analyst Ralph Mathekga described Mthembu as “someone who was loyal to what he believed in”.
“This is a sad loss and great loss to South African politics, there is no doubt about that. It goes to show how vulnerable we all are to the virus,” Mathekga said.
READ MORE: Condolences pour in for late minister Jackson Mthembu
“He was a very driven person, it must be quite sad for the Presidency and the president as well.”
The ANC said the party was shocked at Mthembu’s death.
ANC spokesman Pule Mabe said: “Mvelase has dedicated his entire life to the struggle for a better South Africa and the world.”
Mthembu is the first Cabinet minister to lose his life as a result of the dreaded disease.
A number of other government officials, premiers and senior politicians had previously suffered from the disease, but recovered.
Democratic Alliance leader (DA) John Steenhuisen said he was deeply shocked by “the passing of ANC stalwart and my former parliamentary colleague, adversary and friend, Jackson Mthembu”.
“During the time that we served opposite each other in the National Assembly as chief whips of our respective parties, I came to know him well and I saw a side to him that explains why he was such a revered figure in the ANC,” Steenhuisen said.
“I knew him as a man of integrity and someone who managed to see the bigger picture and the greater cause. He was always prepared to do what it took to find solutions to whatever impasse we might have been facing in the House.
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“If this meant meeting up long after the working day was done to thrash out the details of an agreement, then Jackson would do so
in a heartbeat.”
Before he moved to the Union Buildings, Mthembu was the ANC chief whip between 2016 until 2019, having served previously as chair of the portfolio committees on local government, education, sport and recreation, arts and culture and environmental affairs.
While he was central to Ramaphosa’s rise to power, Mthembu was also credited for having saved former president Jacob Zuma from being ousted via several motions of no confidence in parliament.
Mthembu was born on 5 June, 1958, in eMalahleni, Mpumalanga, where he attended school.
He was a student activist in the ’70s at the University of Fort Hare in the Eastern Cape where he was expelled. He was detained several times under the state of emergency in the ’80s.
Mthembu played an extensive role in political structures in the former Eastern Transvaal and did underground work for the United Democratic Front and the ANC.
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