The funeral of the late minister in the presidency, Jackson Mthembu was held in his hometown in Ackerville, eMalahleni in Mpumalanga. Picture: Kopano Tlape
The funeral of the late minister in the presidency, Jackson Mthembu was held in his hometown in Ackerville, eMalahleni in Mpumalanga. Picture: Kopano Tlape

Jackson Mthembu death has left a great void in SA, says President Cyril Ramaphosa

By ANA Reporter Time of article published Jan 24, 2021

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Emalahleni - Late minister in the presidency Jackson Mthembu’s death of Covid-19-related complications on Thursday has left a huge void in government, in the ANC to which he dedicated his life, and in South Africa of which he was such a proud citizen, President Cyril Ramaphosa said.

Speaking at Mthembu's official funeral in his hometown of Emalahleni in Mpumalanga on Sunday, Ramaphosa said the coronavirus had caused so many sorrows in South Africa, which, like most societies around the world, had been plunged into turmoil.

"And now the stroke of death has taken the very one who has been our citadel, our rock and our tower of strength at this dreadful moment in our country’s history. Amid this great upheaval, when our people are so fearful of the future, they have looked to leaders like Jackson Mthembu for reassurance and for certainty," he said.

As the minister in the presidency, he was the public face of government, communicating its policies and its decisions. During the pandemic, he carried the message of compassion, solidarity, and unity. Mthembu was at the forefront of national effort to contain the Covid-19 pandemic; the very pandemic that had now claimed him.

"Mvelase was among those infinitely rare individuals in our politically-charged society. He was admired and respected across party lines. It has been profoundly touching to witness how the news of Jackson Mthembu’s passing stilled the clatter and bickering that has consumed us in recent times and united us in our sorrow," Ramaphosa said.

"One dare hope that the sentiment that has been displayed at Jackson Mthembu’s passing is a reminder that we have far more in common than we may choose to believe, whether as members of society or as political parties. After all, we all want one thing: what is best for our country.

"We have lost a man who was able to transcend political differences, and to reach out and forge alliances in pursuit of a common goal. We need more men and women like him, who understand and appreciate that we are all heading in the same direction, and that the onward march to a better South Africa is so much easier if we work together," he said.

Minister Mthembu had many virtues that I observed over the many years of the friendship we shared. He was generous in spirit and had a charming personality. He had the endearing ability to lift my mood and fortify my resolve in even the most difficult situations.

"He had a sense of humour that was often most irreverent. He laughed – with his entire body – about things that he probably shouldn’t have, just as he cared deeply about everything that he should. He was principled and a man of great courage, in times of both calm and difficulty. He was an honest man who never hesitated to speak up for what he believed to be right, no matter the cost," Ramaphosa said.

"We will miss the way he swayed, cajoled, and persuaded all of us with his rich and booming voice, his charming words, his clever turn of phrase, and his wonderful sense of humour. We remember a leader of substantial stature who engaged everyone with respect and dignity.

It is not enough to eulogise our departed comrade. We must complete what he was not able to finish in his lifetime: the cause of renewing and rebuilding his beloved movement, of restoring the nation’s faith in this government, and of building an ethical state that is led by men and women of honour, of principle, and of conviction," he said.

Mthembu was a kind and gentle soul, but when it came to corruption, to self-serving leadership and to brazen abuse of power, one would see another side to him. He was never deceived by the false smiles and empty promises of those who sought to enrich themselves at the expense of the poor and the weak.

He called them out, and he did not care if they were more powerful than he was. He risked his life for the liberation of the country and despaired as "we stumbled and as we lost our way".

"It is the greatest tragedy to have lost him, particularly at this time as we strive to return to a path of integrity, of selfless service, and of transformation. And yet we do not despair. We may have lost his principled strident voice, but his spirit lives on in the countless young men and women that he mentored and trained over the years. His spirit and work will live on," Ramaphosa said.

- African News Agency (ANA)

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