Jackson Mthembu succumbs to COVID-19 complications – Ramaphosa announces

Jackson Mthembu. Image credit: Twitter/Jackson Mthembu

Minister in the Presidency Jackson Mthembu has passed away from complications related to COVID-19, President Cyril Ramaphosa has announced. He was 62 years old.

In a statement on Thursday (21 January, 2021), Ramaphosa said, “It is with deep sorrow and shock that we announce that Minister in the Presidency Jackson Mthembu passed away earlier today from COVID-related complications.

“Our thoughts and prayers are with his family at this time of loss. Minister Mthembu was an exemplary leader, an activist and life-long champion of freedom and democracy.

“He was a much-loved and greatly respected colleague and comrade, whose passing leaves our nation at a loss. I extend my deepest sympathies to the Minister’s family, to his colleagues, comrades and many friends.”

Abdominal pain

On 11 January, 2021, Mthembu announced via his Twitter account that he had visited the hospital following abdominal pain and tested positive for COVID-19.

He wrote, “Today I visited the Military Hospital in Tshwane to get medical attention for an abdominal pain. After undergoing some tests, I tested positive for COVID-19. Plans are afoot to get all my family members and close associates tested as well.

“I want to thank the many South Africans who have wished me a speedy recovery. As a people we must overcome COVID-19.”

Jackson Mthembu profile

Mthembu was born in 1958 in Emalahleni, Mpumalanga. He became a student leader at Elukhanyisweni Secondary School during the 1976 student uprisings.

His activism continued at the University of Fort Hare, leading to his expulsion in 1980. He subsequently became a unionist with the Metal and Allied Workers Union (MAWU), the precursor to the National Union of Metal Workers (NUMSA).

Mthembu also channeled his anti-apartheid activism via organisations affiliated to the United Democratic Front (UDF) and was detained several times during the state of emergency periods in the 1980s. He was a Bethal terrorism trialist between 1986 and 1988, but was acquitted.

He became a prominent ANC leader in Mpumalanga after the party’s unbanning in 1990 and became an MP in the National Council of Provinces in 1994. He became ANC spokesperson in 1995 until 1997, and again in 2009 until 2014.

Mthembu was first elected to the ANC National Executive Committee (NEC) in 2007 and later became an MEC in Mpumalanga.

The late Minister returned to Parliament and became Chief Whip between 2016 and 2019. Ramaphosa appointed him Minister in the Presidency after the 2019 national and provincial elections.

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