'I have lost a dear friend' - Cyril Ramaphosa says goodbye to Jackson Mthembu

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  • In the last hours before he died, Minister in the Presidency Jackson Mthembu was concerned that the president would be disappointed.
  • This was according to Mthembu's nurse, who gave a moving tribute at his funeral on Sunday, describing him as humble.
  • Mthembu died of Covid-19 complications on Thursday.

"Cyril will be so disappointed."

These were the words uttered by Minister in the Presidency Jackson Mthembu the day before his death, according to a nurse who cared for him before he died from Covid-19 complications.

He asked to phone the president from his bed at Netcare Milpark Hospital in Johannesburg, nursing sister Mavis Mahlakoane recounted at his funeral on Sunday.

TRIBUTE | Special advisor to Jackson Mthembu: I will miss our calls

Mthembu had said the president was the man who understood him better than anyone.

Mahlakoane recalled her time with Mthembu on Wednesday and Thursday at his funeral. She described him as a humble and calm man.

"We didn't nurse a 'do you know who I am' person," she said.

WATCH | Funeral of Minister Jackson Mthembu (62)

She said Mthembu refused to let her address him as "Minister" and told his gathered family of some of the jokes they shared.  She added that he was concerned about whether she was comfortable in her personal protective equipment and that she hadn't taken her lunch.

When her shift ended on Wednesday night, he asked her to pray with him and he thanked her, she added.

Mahlakoane recounted his final hours, saying he had been intubated by Dr Kgopotso Rudolph Mononyane, an anaesthetist, just before his departure to KwaZulu-Natal.

Mononyane died with three other medical workers and a pilot in a helicopter crash in the Midlands on Thursday.

Delivering the eulogy, President Cyril Ramaphosa said: "I have not only lost a colleague and comrade, I have lost a dear friend."

Ramaphosa said Mthembu had often lifted his spirits and strengthened his resolve, and that the two spoke daily.

"At times he would just call to say, 'How are you, Mr President?,'" Ramaphosa said.

He described Mthembu as an honest man, who was loved and respected.

"We have lost a man who was able to transcend political alliances… We need more men and women like him."

Ramaphosa said Mthembu had a "wonderful sense of humour".

"He laughed like someone who really loved to laugh. He laughed at many things, some of which he probably shouldn't have," the president said.

Mthembu died of Covid-19-related complications on Thursday, 10 days after testing positive for the disease.

The funeral service was held at the Roman Catholic Church near his home in Ackerville township, eMalahleni, in Mpumalanga.

Before becoming a minister, Mthembu, 62, served as chief whip of the ANC in the National Assembly from 2016 to 2019.

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