Health spokesman Joe Maila

Johannesburg - Health Department spokesperson Joe Maila has passed away, Health Minister Dr Aaron Motsoaledi confirmed on Friday. 

Maila passed away on Thursday evening. 

While reports suggested he had died following a shooting accident at a rifle range, the department said it could not confirm the cause of his death.

Motsoaledi in a statement expressed shock and sadness over news of Maila's death. 

"It is with shock and a profound sense of sadness that I inform you of the untimely passing-on of the spokesperson of the Ministry of Health, Mr Joe Maila. He passed on yesterday [Thursday] evening.

"The circumstances surrounding his death are not yet known to the Ministry. Joe Maila is survived by his wife and two children."

The minister also appealed to the media and public to give Maila's family space to deal with his death.

By late afternoon on Friday condolences began pouring in on social media.

Maila, who was often charismatic in carrying out his work, was described by some in the media fraternity as a wonderful spokesman and one of a kind.

Some of those who have worked with him are still shocked at the news of his passing.

The department added that details of Maila's memorial and funeral services would be announced "as soon as we receive information from the family".

See some of the reactions to Maila's passing: