The Eastern Cape government has expressed shock following the death of its MEC for education.Mandla Makupula, 57, died in the early hours of Monday morning. His death was confirmed by provincial spokesperson Sonwabo Mbananga. Mbananga could not reveal the cause of death. However, he said the MEC had been battling a long illness. "The MEC died shortly after 01:00 this morning. As the province we are in shock."He said the provincial government didn't want to get ahead of itself and disclose the circumstances around Makupula's cause of death. It would be guided by the MEC's family, he said."His death comes after a long illness. [Despite] being ill, Makupula was able to perform his duties. And he was fully functional in cabinet meetings as well as heading his department," he said.Makupula had been critically ill in recent days.Mbananga said the MEC was in and out of hospital due to his illness."Many in the province are not aware about his passing. Makupula was highly regarded in his performances in both the department and provincial cabinet. He also contributed a lot in the liberation struggle," he said.Makupula, who had been the MEC of education since 2010, was described as a humble and approachable person. DA MPL Edmund van Vuuren expressed his party's condolences to Makupula's family. "He was a man who was passionate about education, and we often consulted and sought out ways that could solve the many systemic issues and challenges his department was facing," van Vuuren said in a statement. Funeral arrangements will be announced soon.