Jackson Mthembu remembered: Loyal, hardworking and a friend for life

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  • Politicians paid tribute to Jackson Mthembu, who died on Thursday.
  • The presidency announced that he died due to Covid-19 complications.
  • Mthembu was hailed by the ANC as well as opposition party leaders.

Loyal, hardworking, committed and a friend for life - this is how those who knew and worked closely with Minister in the Presidency Jackson Mthembu remembered him.

Mthembu died on Thursday morning of Covid-19 complications, just 10 days after saying he tested positive for the virus.

ANC deputy secretary-general Jessie Duarte addressed a briefing on behalf of the party a few hours after Mthembu's death, but was, at times, at a loss for words. She said:

"Our brother is gone, he is not going to come back. Our beloved [national executive committee] member, with his delightful laugh, and his ability to bring to the NEC great value is gone forever."

Duarte said Mthembu worked long hours and didn't leave any job undone.

READ | Jackson Mthembu dies of Covid-19-related complications

"He was particular about preparing a statement - sometimes he would work late into the night and then drive back to Witbank, where he was living at the time. He had a great sense of humour and could draw people into a conversation," she said.

Although he could be quite firm and stern when he needed to be, "he rarely lost friends, he made friends in his life. The friends he had will be his friends forever".

She said he was loyal to the country as well as to the ANC.

Much-loved

In a statement announcing Mthembu's death, President Cyril Ramaphosa described him as an "exemplary leader, an activist and life-long champion of freedom and democracy".

Ramaphosa added that Mthembu "was a much-loved and greatly respected colleague and comrade, whose passing leaves our nation at a loss".

Even opposition leaders were full of praise.

DA leader John Steenhuisen, who served as chief whip of the DA when Mthembu was ANC chief whip, said: "I knew him as a man of integrity, and someone who managed to see the bigger picture and the greater cause. He was always prepared to do what it took to find solutions to whatever impasse we might have been facing in the House.

"If this meant meeting up long after the working day was done to thrash out the details of an agreement, then Jackson would do so in a heartbeat."

UDM leader Bantu Holomisa said Mthembu, when confronted with ANC politics, "appeared to be a person who would stand up for his beliefs openly and had a good sense of humour. Mthembu batted well during his innings. We can't fault him and we should just be thankful to have people like him, who were at the forefront of the struggle."

FF Plus chief whip Corne Mulder tweeted that Mthembu "was an excellent chief whip of Parliament. He stood strong and on principle when Parliament came under attack during the Zuma years. Later, he was a competent and dedicated member of the Executive. His death is a tragedy for us all."

EFF leader Julius Malema did not always see eye to eye with Mthembu, but the party on Thursday tweeted: "While we differed from time to time, we know that our country has lost a powerful force, who charged his responsibilities with passion."

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