Minister in the Presidency Jackson Mthembu. File photo: ANA/Siyabulela Duda
Minister in the Presidency Jackson Mthembu. File photo: ANA/Siyabulela Duda

Jackson Mthembu: a man of passion, enthusiasm and commitment

By Opinion Time of article published Jan 26, 2021

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By Sihle Zikalala

On January 24, our country laid to rest one of the outstanding cadres of our revolution, Comrade Jackson Mthembu, whose life epitomised the day-to-day struggles of our people.

Cde Mvelase was a product of the struggle of the suffering masses and the despised downtrodden of our land. In him, we had a seasoned, humble and dedicated cadre.

We are honoured in our province, to have worked closely with him for more than a decade. I and a number of ANC leaders and activists from KZN can affirm that Mvelase was a workaholic who enjoyed working on the ground serving the people.

At the ANC level, Mthembu was deployed in KZN and assigned to Moses Mabhida Region where he led many campaigns with great passion, enthusiasm, and commitment.

We can all attest that Mthembu was very dedicated in servicing our structures. In doing so, we would emphasise unity and problem solving consistent with principles of the organisation.

Wherever there were campaigns Mvelase would be there. In October, we saw him criss-crossing Mtubatuba in Northern KwaZulu-Natal with our activists during the local government by-elections.

At government level, when our democratic state launched the District Development Model (DDM), Mvelase was assigned by President Cyril Ramaphosa to the Harry Gwala District where he worked with MEC Hlomuka who is a provincial government champion to the district.

With district Mayor Cde Zamo Nxumalo, they worked diligently and collectively. We thank them for managing to quickly launch the District Development Model (DDM) which became one of the first functional DDMs in our province.

Friends and compatriots, Mvelase surrendered to the struggle of the people and the working class. In him, we had an exemplary revolutionary cadre who internalised both the values and traditions of our movement.

He understood that the ANC is in power to advance the National Democratic Revolution (NDR) and to deliver a National Democratic Society that is non-racial, non-sexist, democratic, united and prosperous.

He became the embodiment of the best values of the NDR.

As the ANC Strategy and Tactics puts it: “The NDR seeks to build a society based on the best in human civilisation in terms of political and human freedoms, socio-economic rights, value systems and identity. If there were to be any single measure of the civilising mission of the NDR, it would be how it treats the most vulnerable in society.”

In his life, Mvelase was preoccupied with the effectiveness of the ANC in discharging this historical mission and responsibility of improving the lives of our people, especially the vulnerable poor, marginalised rural women, and the disabled. With his natural humble character, he lived amongst the downtrodden and always strove to ensure that the movement and our government respond to their plight.

By embodying humility throughout, he endeared himself in the hearts of our people and distinguished himself from those, who when they are deployed to higher positions, become arrogant, aloof, and pursue a life of conspicuous consumption, materialism, and high-life with no regard to the plight and suffering of ordinary citizens. Mvelase would engage with all people irrespective of their social standing or economic position.

As dictated by the principle of constructive criticism and self-criticism, Mvelase was always open and frank on his views. He would advance his position and views with passion and great agility, but never for once seek to belittle or humiliate others, no matter how much he disagreed with them.

He differed with many comrades, but he would calmly engage them in one-on-one discussions to iron out differences in a matured manner in line with the principles of constructive engagement.

In his honour, we must continue with the work of renewal and unity of the ANC. We must return to our best traditions of revolutionary discipline, collective decision-making and democratic centralism. We must pay greater attention to the plight of our people and always treat them with respect and dignity.

We must hasten to improve the capacity and effectiveness of our developmental state so that it can best tackle the root causes of the scourges of unemployment, inequality, and poverty.

As said, they are those who struggle for a month that is good, they are who struggle for years that is also appreciated but there are those who struggle for their entire lives who have their lives intertwined with the plight of the masses, and such was Jackson Mthembu.

Farewell, Hamba Kahle Mvelase, usishiye ngokuzuma

* This tribute to Mthembu was delivered by ANC KZN provincial chairperson Sihle Zikalala at the ANC memorial service held on January 25 .

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