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

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Jackson Mthembu
Jackson Mthembu
Jan Gerber

Lumko Mtimde, who was special advisor to Jackson Mthembu, has written a tribute to his collegue, describing how the minister's death is a massive loss.

What a great loss!

I write with a heavy heart and sorrow "mngani wam", as you would call me. I never thought I would pay tribute to you in this manner and so soon.

On Thursday, at around 13:30, while I was busy organising the funeral service for my aunt, Lulama Xoliswa Mashologu, who died on 20 January, I received a call from my colleague Dr Gwen Ramokgoba, which added more salt to my wound.

I have lost many family members before to Covid-19, from my father Rev AD Mtimde, to my siblings and my daughter, Kwanele Makhathini. I have, however, never felt such a deep wound, hurt and devastation like on Thursday.

Our relationship goes back years in the ANC and more particulary on the NEC communications subcommittee, which you chaired. 

In my adult life, I probably spent more of time with you than with some of my relatives.


We drafted many ANC discussion papers together on the "Battle of Ideas, ICT and communications", as well as many media statements, even for the ANC in Parliament.

By way of delegation, you and comrade Pallo Jordan threw me in deep end, empowering me to be a de facto ANC spokesperson, focusing on the interpretation of the ANC Resolutions on the discussion document on "Battle of Ideas", leaving me with a title of the proponent of the establishment of independent media regulation. Opponents reduced this to the Media Appeals Tribunal, without the context (independent regulation). But I always obliged and enjoyed the task.

You always, without fail, said I represented the organisation well under all-round attack from the media and the opposition. You assured me that the ANC commitment to media freedom, accountability, independent regulation is unshaken.

READ | Obituary: Jackson Mthembu: A giant has fallen

As the ANC Chief Whip, you remained supportive, even at times when I was attacked by our own comrades on the ANC resolution on the broadcasting digital migration. You came to my support when lies were spread in Parliament that I do not have the correct qualifications. To this end, you issued an ANC Parliament statement, which resulted in the Press Ombudsman instructing media houses to apologise to me. Whenever you faced attacks from the media, you asked your then-spokesperson, Nonceba Mhlauli, to work with me on the strategy and media statements leading once again to more apologies from the media.

Fast forward to June 2019, following the elections, where you called me to join you in the Presidency as your Special Advisor. Here, we worked very closely with you leading us with distinction. Your leadership and work ethics was exemplary.

I will never forget the 21 January 2021. It is a day of unbelievable, shocking and devastating news.

Inene isitya esihle asidleli. (Truly you cannot/do not eat from a beautiful dish)

What a loss. With a heavy heart, lets celebrate the life of a larger than life person, a communicator par excellence, a giant, an outstanding leader, a people's person, a disciplined, principled, consistent, trusted cadre, a unifier, a selfless freedom fighter and a humble comrade.

Servant leadership

You epitomised servant leadership, serving the nation well. You gave your all to us.

I will miss your daily calls in the morning and evening.

When we worked on something, you would not stop phoning. You would end the call only to phone back again and again. I got used to doing my daily exercise routine from 05:30, knowing full well I would get a call at 06:30 from you.

I will miss our engagements. Even when we differed on a matter, you led and ruled but later, after reflecting, would call and acknowledge the other view and reconcile.

Your honesty, humility, tolerance and lone voice of reason when necessary, are uncomparable.

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

Mvelase, you are among a few who knew the difference between fact and fiction. You were ethically perceived to be upright; a leader who we all could still trust, even as we faced so many challenges as a country, organisation and society.

To Sis' Thembi, your children and the family, your pain is our pain too. We shall regain strength and move forward. But yes, life will never be the same again.

Deepest and heartfelt condolences to the family, the ANC and the alliance, friends, South Africans and all of us in the Presidency.

Hamba kahle Mkhonto. Hamba kahle Mphathiswa, my Boss, my comrade, my brother, my friend and my Leader.

Lala ngoxolo Mvelase Jackson Mthembu. Lala ngoxolo Mvelase. We will miss you dearly. 

Lumko Mtimde, Special Advisor for the Minister Mthembu

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