TRIBUTE | Jackson Mthembu: Civil society mourns the loss of gallant giant in the fight against HIV

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Minister in the Presidency Jackson Mthembu died of Covid-19 complications.
Minister in the Presidency Jackson Mthembu died of Covid-19 complications.

The South African National AIDS Council Civil Society Forum writes that Jackson Mthembu was a lifelong champion of the people’s struggles for a just and equal society.

The South African National AIDS Council Civil Society Forum (Sanac CSF) mourns the loss of a gutsy, committed leader in the fight for social justice and inclusion.

Minister Jackson Mthembu was an exemplary leader, an activist at heart and a lifelong champion of the people's struggles for a just and equal society. His death must not deter us all, in continuing the fight.

READ | Obituary: Jackson Mthembu: A giant has fallen

For more than a decade, Comrade Mthembu was at the forefront of championing the fight for rights, amplifying the voices of Civil Society constituencies fighting for access to treatment, policy change and wherever else the struggle took him. He championed the response to HIV and TB as an uncompromising struggle for human rights and international solidarity.

In his most recent government portfolio, as Minister in the Presidency, he rallied through the Sanac Inter-Ministerial Committee (IMC), the implementation of the National Strategic Plan for HIV, TB & STIs (2017-2022).

He was always at the forefront of the fight, calling for active participation of all stakeholders to renew its support for civil society including the recently launched Sanac Civil Society and Government partnership strategic framework, feeding in an initiative that led to the birth of the Sanac Civil Society Forum in 2012, within the Sanac structure.

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

On behalf of the Sananc CSF and the entire Sanac Family, we send our deepest condolences to Mthembu's family and people of South Africa at this difficult time. 

"We mourn and celebrate the extraordinary life of a remarkable man who devoted his life to fight for freedom, equality and protection of human rights. He was a champion of transformation particularly in development, politics and health agenda - known throughout the HIV, TB and Sustainable Development Goal movement not just for his inspirational eloquence, but his human warmth. His passing is a loss for the people of South Africa and the world," said Steve Letsike, Chairperson of CSF and Co-Chair of Sanac.

Minister Mthembu was a great voice and argued in a way that left no one indifferent. He touched the lives of those who were fortunate enough to know him, whether professionally or personally, and those who benefited from his tireless work to defend the health and human rights of people living with HIV or at risk from the disease. 

Letsike added that:

"His leadership in Parliament and in government demonstrated the importance of why HIV, TB and STI should remain on South Africa's agenda. He believed in the idea that everyone needs to heed to the call to action and unity in purpose to deliver on the hopes and dreams of the people, and most importantly the partnership that advances and amplifies the different roles that are played by all stakeholders including government, civil society and business."

In honouring his legacy, the Civil Society Forum will continue to affirm itself to independence and strengthen the voice that is coordinated in advisory to Sanac.

We are faced with quadruple epidemics as a country - the fight against HIV, gender-based violence, infectious and non-communicable diseases, and in addition, recognising the recent global pandemic of Covid-19.

"Comrade Mthembu's passing and many due to this pandemic is a clarion call for all to heed in keeping each other safe and ensuring free and equitable access to vaccines, while still adhering to non-pharmaceutical methods in saving lives," Letsike concluded.

Minister Jackson Mthembu will be remembered for his passion, commitment and sense of humour.

Lala ngoxolo Mvelase, Qhudeni, Jama KaMnisi! 

- South African National AIDS Council Civil Society Forum 

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