Friday, January 22, 2021


Mthembu passed away earlier on Thursday from COVID-19 related complications.

FILE: Jackson Mthembu and Minister Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams at a communications briefing at the ANC national policy conference on 5 July 2017. Picture: Thomas Holder/Eyewitness News.

Tshidi Madia & Shamiela Fisher 

JOHANNESBURG/CAPE TOWN - South Africa has been rocked by news of the death of senior African National Congress (ANC) member and Minister in the Presidency Jackson Mthembu.

Mthembu died earlier on Thursday from COVID-19 related complications.

Last Monday, he tweeted that he had sought medical attention at the 1 Military Hospital in Tshwane after experiencing abdominal pains. It was there that his COVID-19 diagnosis was confirmed.

President Cyril Ramaphosa released a statement announcing Mthembu's passing.

ANC leaders have expressed their sadness and have also praised Mthembu for his dedication to the movement and the country.

ANC deputy secretary general Jessie Duarte said Mthembu died with his boots on, working for the people of South Africa.

She said he left behind a legacy of integrity and honesty, praising the late minister in the Presidency for his work ethic and commitment to serving South Africans.

Stern, firm and loyal to both South Africa and the ANC, this is how the Duarte has described Mthembu.

She said many in the ANC were struggling to make sense of the news.

Duarte added that Mthembu was a defender of the truth: “He leaves a legacy of honesty and integrity and a legacy of deep value.”

Duarte said the late minister, who once served as the voice and face of the ANC, would always be remembered for his friendly approach to people.

“And an ability to communicate very easily to people and to draw people in conversations.”

She believes his passing should be a reminder to everyone of the period the world is in.

A friend and colleague who's come a long way with Mthembu is national ANC chair Gwede Mantashe.

Mantashe said news of the minister's passing had left him in shock: “He was a reliable ally in any battle that you faced, we have lost him in the movement, we have lost him in government but Mpumalanga will lose him more, Witbank in particular. So, it’s a big loss to the country.

“When we received this news, I was disoriented and that’s why it is still difficult to handle the media on this one.”

Democratic Alliance leader John Steenhuisen, who served with Mthembu in the National Assembly as chief whips of their respective parties, has described him as a revered figure in the ANC and a true South African patriot.

Steenhuisen said Ramaphosa had lost a close ally and an exemplary leader: “He was a larger than life figure who at the centre of a great deal of political action, we were able to find a compromise in Parliament and that was because of his ability to try and find compromises.”

ANC parliamentary chief whip Pemmy Majodina said the ANC lost one of its most talented leaders.

Majodina said Mthembu was friendly but firm in his approach: “He loved joy, he loved parties. He would not harbour anger at any stage. He was full of life and that is what one is going to miss about him.”

International Relations Minister Naledi Pandor had nothing but praise for Mthembu: “So, this is a person who was deep in the struggle and truly made a contribution to the freedom that all of us enjoy today and for him to enjoy it for such a short time... is very painful.”

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