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’His death is a tragedy for us all’: Political parties pay tribute to Jackson Mthembu

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“His death is a tragedy for us all”.

Jackson Mthembu. File picture: GCIS

THE ANC and political parties across the board have paid tribute to Minister in the Presidency Jackson Mthembu, who died of Covid-19-related complications on Thursday.

He was 62 years old.

The ANC conveyed “its heartfelt condolences” to the NEC member’s family, friends, colleagues and comrades.

“The passing of Jackson Mthembu is a great loss to South Africa and to our movement,” ANC national spokesperson Pule Mabe said in a statement.

“Born 5 June 1958 in Witbank (now Emalahleni, Mpumalanga), Cde Jackson (62) mostly referred to in his clan name ’Mvelase’ has dedicated his entire life to the struggle for a better South Africa and world.

“A young student and youth activist since the 70s, Mvelase went on to play a critical role in the mass democratic movement, including the United Democratic Front and ANC underground structures in the then Eastern Transvaal, as a vocal proponent for freedom and the emancipation of the people.

“Mvelase became pivotal in setting up the structures of the ANC after its unbanning in 1990 under the banner of the National Reception Committee.

“His consistency and ability to engage and win over even those who disagreed with him, saw Mvelase excel in the communications machinery of the ANC, eventually serving as its National Spokesperson and the Chief Whip of the ANC in Parliament. In these tasks he excelled as expected and did his work with diligence, commitment and with attention to detail.

“Mvelase’s contribution in the NEC was always considered, aimed at genuine exchange of ideas and finding solutions, always passionately committed to the betterment of South Africa’s people, especially the poor and marginalised.

“As a revolutionary cadre he understood the importance of self-criticism, always willing to admit if he made mistakes and self-correct. We all remember his sense of humour, his firmness and humility.

In all the positions that he served over the years, as youth activist, civic and community leader, in the ANC and government as MEC in Mpumalanga, as Member of Parliament, as ANC Chief Whip, as Minister in the Presidency, he led with distinction and honour.

“On behalf of the National Executive Committee of the ANC, we dip our revolutionary banner to this formidable South African patriot.

“Hamba Kahle, Mvelase, Lala ngoxolo Freedom Fighter,” Mabe said.

DA leader John Steenhuizen also expressed great shock at the news and said he was “deeply saddened to learn of the passing of ANC stalwart and my former parliamentary colleague, adversary and friend“.

“The news of his death this afternoon (Thursday) comes as a great shock, and I can only imagine the devastating impact this must have on those who were close to him,” Steenhuizen said.

“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.

“During the time that we served opposite each other in the National Assembly as chief whips of our respective parties, I came to know him well and I saw a side to him that explains why he was such a revered figure in the ANC.

“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.

“His passing will be mourned by all who knew him and everyone who worked with him, whether in his party, in Cabinet or around the parliamentary precinct. I pray that his loved ones find strength and comfort in this difficult time,” Steenhuizen said.

The EFF posted a video clip of Mthembu in Parliament on Twitter and said: “While we differed from time to time, we know that our country has lost a powerful force who charged his responsibilities with passion. Rest in peace Comrade Jackson Mthembu.”

Freedom Front Plus Chief Whip Corne Mulder said: “Jackson Mthembu was an excellent Chief Whip of Parliament. He stood strong and on principle when Parliament came under attack during Zuma years. Later he was a competent and dedicated member of the Executive. His death is a tragedy for us all.”

The African Transformation Movement (ATM) said: “During his lifetime, Minister Mthembu served South Africa courageously, and the notable deeds of his patriotic nature are highly appreciated, also noting Minister Mthembu’s stellar work in the SADC regions, ensuring that there is peace in the SADC affiliated countries, especially when there was looming instability.”

ATM also acknowledged 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.”