Johannesburg - KwaZulu-Natal's former agricultural and environmental affairs MEC, Mtholephi Emmanuel Mthimkhulu, died aged 56 on Friday, the provincial legislature said."It is with profound shock and sadness that the Speaker of the KZN Legislature Honourable Lydia Johnson, honourable members and staff have learned of the untimely passing-on of Honourable Mtholephi Emmanuel Mthimkhulu this afternoon," spokesperson Wonder Hlongwa said in a statement.Johnson said Mthimkhulu's death was "a huge loss" and that he was dedicated to and passionate about his work.She conveyed condolences to his family.Mthimkhulu joined the provincial legislature in 1999 and soon after became chairperson of the education portfolio committee. He was appointed ANC chief whip in the legislature in 2004, before he became MEC in 2006.In the fourth term, he was elected the legislature's deputy speaker. He was appointed chairperson of the public participation, pensions and petitions committee after last year's general elections.Mthimkhulu had a journalism background and was provincial ANC spokesperson until he was elected to the provincial legislature."In all these portfolios he served with distinction which was characteristic of his commitment to change the lives of the people of South Africa especially the poor and the previously disadvantaged," Hlongwa said.