“He has left a void in our government, in the movement to which he dedicated his life and in the country of which he was such a proud citizen.”
“JACKSON Mthembu was one of our country’s heroes, one of our finest public servants, and one of our greatest patriots.”
This is how President Cyril Ramaphosa eulogised late Minister in the Presidency Jackson Mthembu, whose funeral service was held at the Sacred Heart Roman Catholic Church in Ackerville, Emalahleni in Mpumalanga on Sunday morning.
Mthembu died of Covid-19-related complications in hospital on Thursday.
At the funeral, the minister’s daughter Thuli Mthembu spoke on behalf of her siblings and “those who saw him as a father figure”.
“It came as no surprise to us seeing pictures of daddy singing and dancing because that is literally all he did. My father was a personified version of literal ’a breath of fresh air’. He made joy and laughter his daily bread, and in this hard time, seeing South Africa see that too, has brought us smiles in this season of sorrow.“
Thuli mentioned that she was sad that the grandchildren in the family will miss out on some of the lessons that they have learned from him.
President Ramaphosa said that the news of Mthembu’s passing struck a deep and solemn note.
“I remember the words of William Shakespeare, ’When sorrows come, they come not as single spies, but in battalions!’ … The stroke of death has taken the very one who has been our citadel, our rock, and our tower of strength at this deadly moment in our country’s history.
“He has left a void in our government, in the movement to which he dedicated his life and in the country of which he was such a proud citizen.
“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 the minister’s passing stilled the clatter and bickering that has consumed us in recent times and united us in our sorrow.
“One dare hope that the sentiment that has been displayed at Minister Mthembu’s passing is a reminder that we have 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,” Ramaphosa said.
“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.”
The president said that the country needs more men and women like Mthembu, who understood and appreciated 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”.
“I have lost not just a dependable colleague and a comrade. I have lost a dear friend, and it is a loss I feel most keenly.
“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,” Ramaphosa said.
“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.”
Ramaphosa said that he was principled and a man of great courage, in times of both calm and difficulty.
Mthembu was an honest man who never hesitated to speak up for what he believed to be right, no matter the cost, Ramaphosa said.
“His life was full of meaning and accomplishment in the way he dedicated himself to serve the people of our country.
“I will remember him for his kindness, his professional approach, but above all for his ever-present sense of calm, even in a crisis or when we would be under extreme pressure.
“As we pay homage to him today, let us remember him for what he was, a servant leader who loved the people of this great land, and put them above love of party, of leader, and of self.”
Ramaphosa said that it was not enough to eulogise Mthembu, but that everyone must work to complete what he was not able to finish in his lifetime.
“As we lay him to rest, may it be that others step forward to follow in his footsteps and take up his spear. May we too speak for those who cannot. May we too give comfort to those in need, especially at this time of hardship.
“May we too put love of country before love of self,” he said.