- Mthembu is the first South African minister to die from Covid-19
- He was 62 years old
- The minister in the presidency was at the forefront of the fight against coronavirus
- One of his children committed suicide in March 2019
Minister in the Presidency Jackson Mthembu has died from COVID-19 related complications, the Presidency has announced.
President Cyril Ramaphosa said in a statement on Thursday that Mthembu died earlier in the morning. He was 62 at the time of his death.
Ramaphosa described Mthembu as an exemplary leader, an activist and life-long champion of freedom and democracy
“He was a much-loved and greatly respected colleague and comrade, whose passing leaves our nation at a loss,” Ramaphosa said.
“I extend my deepest sympathies to the Minister’s family, to his colleagues, comrades and many friends.”
Irony of fate
Mthembu was at the forefront of the government’s fight against the coronavirus, which is wreaking havoc in the country. He was responsible for communicating government’s messages in the fight against the pandemic.
As of Wednesday night, 38,854 people had died across SA of Covid-19 related complications, while nearly 1.37 million had been confirmed as infected since the virus outbreak in the country in March last year.
On January 11, Mthembu announced that he had tested positive for Covid-19 after “showing some symptoms”.
Cabinet spokesperson Phumla Williams said at the time that he “remains in high spirits and wishes all those who are also fighting the coronavirus a speedy recovery”.
Mthembu regularly advised all South Africans to “play their part by continuing to regularly wash or sanitise their hands, properly wear a face mask and practise physical distancing at all times.”
Mthembu was born in Witbank, now Emalahleni, in Mpumalanga in 1958 and cut his political teeth in student politics in the 1970s.
He served in party structures in the 1980s in the fight against apartheid during which he was harassed by security forces.
Mr Mthembu was the Minister in the Presidency of South Africa’s government, and parliamentarian for the African National Congress (ANC). Previously, he served as the Chief Whip of Parliament for the ANC as well as national spokesperson for the governing party.
Mthembu was married to Thembi Mthembu. They had six children. One of their children, 25-year-old Nokhwezi Mthembu, committed suicide on 20 March 2019.
May his soul rest in peace.