Red overalls, the City Press and cigarettes: A moment for Jackson Mthembu's humour

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ANCs Jackson Mthembu during day 1 of the 2019 State of the Nation Address 2019 debate at the National Assembly. (Photo by Gallo Images / Sowetan / Esa Alexander)
ANCs Jackson Mthembu during day 1 of the 2019 State of the Nation Address 2019 debate at the National Assembly. (Photo by Gallo Images / Sowetan / Esa Alexander)
  • Jackson Mphikwa Mthembu served as a Minister in the Presidency of South Africa’s government.
  • Aged 62, the minister died on 21 January 2021 after testing positive for Covid-19. 
  • His jovial manner and brazen wit made him a media favourite, and he endeared himself to the public with his humour and vulnerability.


Jackson Mphikwa Mthembu served as a Minister in the Presidency of South Africa’s government. Before this he served as a member of parliament for the African National Congress as well as the party’s national spokesperson. 

He died on 21 January 2021 after testing positive for Covid-19. He was 62. To commemorate his life, Arts24 remembers some of Mthembu’s most humorous moments. 

"Run and don't look back"

Introducing his daughter Thuli to Parliament, the minister in the Presidency joked with cabinet in 2019, telling his daughter to run if approached by someone in red overalls.

“Distinguished guests in the gallery, including my daughter and her friends. Her name is Thuli, she’s up there. Now I just want to say to Thuli: Thuli if you see anybody wearing a red overall and boots approaching you, run my girl. Run and don’t look back.”

"Cula Ringo"

In 2019, after a surprise inclusion on the EFF's parliamentary roll, EFF MP and isiXhosa musician was sworn into parliament, where he was entertainingly received by the ANC benches. Referred to as 'Honourable Sondela' after one of his many hits, the singer was called by Jackson Mthembu to sing while cabinet awaited the results of a secret ballot. "Cula Ringo. Cula," laughed Mthembu before joking about putting money together to compensate the singer politician.

"Hayi Jackson," a voice jokingly admonishes as Mthembu himself begins to sing the first line love-back jam.

"Don't buy City Press. Don't Buy"

In 2011, before his relationship with former president Jacob Zuma came to a halt, Mthembu called for the public to stop buying the City Press in Zuma's honour. He did so with a song and dance. 

Nothing a braai-b can't fix

Shortly after calling for the boycott, Mthembu lifted the City Press ban. Speaking to Chester Missing about the lift, he joked saying the City Press had appeased him with “a wonderful braai and wonder cheap whiskey” before he burst out laughing.  

"You want cigarettes?"

During a press conference regarding Covid-19 regulations a journalist asked Mthembu whether the ban on cigarettes would be lifted. After quietly dead staring him for some seconds Mthembu responded saying, “You want cigarettes? Okay, next.”



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