SOUTH African President Cyril Ramaphosa has announced that Minister in the Presidency Jackson Mthembu has died of COVID-19.
“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. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family at this time of loss,” President Ramaphosa tweeted.
“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, shows passing leaves our nation at a loss,” Presidency said.
Mthembu was one of the government’s key leaders in its response to the pandemic and the public face during many COVID-19 press briefings.
Mthembu (62) had tested positive on January 11, according to a government statement. After complaining of stomach pains, he was admitted to hospital. His passing yesterday has come as a shock and surprise.
“Comrade Jackson died with his boots on,” said ANC Deputy Secretary-General Jessie Duarte in a hastily called briefing that underscores Mthembu’s standing in the governing party.
Mthembu’s life and career are intrinsically embedded in the ANC and also in the United Democratic Front (UDF) from his student days in the 1970s.
A former ANC national spokesperson from 2009 until May 2014, when he came to Parliament – first to serve as environmental affairs committee chairperson, and then from early 2016 as ANC chief whip.
Previously, he had served as Mpumalanga legislature chief whip while he served there as MPL, and also as MEC between 1997 and 1999. But Mthembu’s activism goes back to his youth in, as it was then known, the Eastern Transvaal, where he was spokesperson for the ANC from 1990 to 1994, but also served in the Detainees Parents’ Support Committee and UDF.