• Parties from across the political spectrum paid tribute to Minister in the Presidency Jackson Mthembu.
  • He was chief whip of the ANC from 2016 to May 2019.
  • Parties and MPs lauded him for his integrity and service to the country.

The death of Minister in the Presidency, Jackson Mthembu, shocked and saddened MPs from both sides of the House.

Mthembu, chief whip of the ANC in the National Assembly from 2016 to 2019, died from Covid-19 related complications on Thursday, after testing positive for the virus.

“In the passing of Mr Mthembu, South Africa has lost a passionate and fiercely vocal freedom fighter. He was a patriotic South African and a strong defender of constitutional democracy. He was a dependable reservoir of knowledge and wisdom, particularly on the workings of the legislative arm of the state, which he served for years at provincial and national levels in various capacities,” said Parliament’s presiding officers, Speaker of the National Assembly Thandi Modise and Chairperson of the National Council of Provinces Amos Masondo.

“In Mr Mthembu we were all rest assured that we had the most humble, passionate, loving, respectful, upright and outstanding servant. Words cannot begin to describe the devastating shock this sudden news has caused us. Our thoughts and prayers are with his wife, kids and broader family during this extraordinarily sad time.”

ANC Chief Whip Pemmy Majodina was in Colesberg ahead of the burial of another ANC MP when she learnt the news.

“We are shattered, this is painful and death continues unabated. We have lost my predecessor, a selfless leader; a brother who was firm in his leadership and gave me support, not seeking to lead from the grave, but enabling me the space to lead and one of the best ANC cadres amongst us,” said Majodina in a statement.

She said the ANC caucus was devastated by the loss.

“We will miss his love, loyalty to the Republic and dedication to our people. We will miss his contagious laughter, affable manner, jovial nature and contagious laughter.

“In his honour, we will continue to fight all forms of corruption and strengthen our resolve to build a better country from all our people as we nurse back our nation to economic recovery.”

She also lauded Mthembu for his work in government communications, particularly during the pandemic.

DA leader John Steenhuisen, who served as the Chief Whip of the opposition opposite Mthembu during the often acrimonious Fifth Parliament, said he was deeply saddened by the death of his “former parliamentary colleague, adversary and friend, Jackson Mthembu”.

“On behalf of the DA, I would like to extend our sincere condolences to his family, his friends and his party. You have lost a generous man with a big heart and an even bigger sense of humour. To say that Jackson was much loved would be some understatement,” said Steenhuisen in a statement.

“I knew him as a man of integrity, and someone who managed to see the bigger picture and the greater cause. He was always prepared to do what it took to find solutions to whatever impasse we might have been facing in the House. If this meant meeting up long after the working day was done to thrash out the details of an agreement, then Jackson would do so in a heartbeat.”

While Mthembu often crossed swords with the EFF in Parliament, the party praised him for always providing “logical and sound leadership” which often transcended the partisan nature of parliamentary politics.

“What distinguished Cde Jackson Mthembu from the majority of the unthinking partisan representatives, was his ability to listen and to concede to logic, even when such did not necessarily coincide with his party’s position,” the EFF statement said.

Cde Jackson Mthembu was not a political zombie, he always tried to develop, enhance and harness his ideological and political comprehension. May his soul rest in peace and those of us who come after him should learn an important attribute that political struggle is not about self-enrichment and self-gratification, but service to humanity!

IFP MP and spokesperson Mkhulekho Hlengwa described Mthembu as a bridge-builder and someone with a deep love for our country and service.

“He was a humble gentleman and will be forever remembered for his decisive leadership and candour. Minister Mthembu committed his life to public service and he touched each and every individual who was fortunate enough to cross paths with him,” Hlengwa said in a statement.

FF Plus leader Pieter Groenewald expressed his party’s condolences to Mthembu’s family and the ANC.

“He served as Chief Whip of the ANC and in Parliament for many years and he acquitted himself very well of his task,” said Groenewald in a statement.

“On a personal level, he was always friendly and treated others with respect.”

ACDP leader Kenneth Meshoe tweeted his condolences to the Mthembu family and the ANC.

“He was a humble & passionate leader who treated all with respect,” he tweeted.

UDM leader Bantu Holomisa said he first worked with Mthembu when Holomisa was still Transkei’s leader.

“We later reconnected when he was in Parliament and he became my boss in the portfolio committee of environment as the chair. He was always a person who reads and comes to a meeting well prepared on the topic,” said Holomisa.

“Jackson, when confronted with ANC politics, appeared to be a person who would stand up for his beliefs openly and had a good sense of humour. Mthembu batted well during his innings and we can’t fault him and we should be just thankful to have people like him who were in the forefront of the struggle.”

The party Good, in a Facebook post, said:

We are deeply saddened to hear of the passing of Minister in the Presidency, Hon Jackson Mthembu today. His service to our country will always be remembered. Our sincerest condolences to his family and loved ones.

The ATM said in a statement that Mthembu had served South Africa courageously, and that his “notable deeds of his patriotic nature are highly appreciated”.

“ATM further acknowledges his work in the National Coronavirus Command Council (NCCC), which portrayed his unwavering efforts and contributions in the active fight against the coronavirus pandemic that has engulfed the world.

“If anything, in honour of the late minister, ATM pleads with all South Africans to observe and adhere to all lockdown regulations as published by the government, to ensure that we come out victorious in this fight.”

The chairperson of the Portfolio Committee on Communications, Boyce Maneli, said Mthembu had “reinvigorated” government communications.

The GCIS is a state-owned entity under the Ministry in the Presidency which accounted for its work to the Portfolio Committee on Communications.

“The death of Minister Mthembu has robbed not only his family, but the entire nation. We are left poorer without him. However, we are comforted by the indelible legacy that he is leaving behind, in both Cabinet and government communication. May his soul rest in peace,” said Maneli.

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