Prominent South African politician, Jackson Mthembu, has died of Covid-related complications, President Cyril Ramaphosa has announced.
Mr Mthembu, who since 2019 had been serving as the minister in the presidency, was a parliamentarian and long-serving member of the governing African National Congress (ANC).
He had worked his way up the ranks over many years and has been described as a man of integrity.
In his tribute, President Ramaphosa said the 62-year-old was “an exemplary leader” and “life-long champion of democracy”.
Ten days ago, Mr Mthembu shared news in a tweet that he had an abdominal pain and had tested positive for coronavirus. His last tweet on that same day read: “I want to thank the many South Africans who have wished me a speedy recovery. As a people we must overcome Covid-19.”
Mr Mthembu will be remembered in media circles as one of the few officials who cultivated an open relationship between the media and those in power, even at the height of the tumultuous scandal-prone years of the previous administration.
He believed that politicians should be accountable to the people, a value that sometimes put him at odds with members of his own party who preferred that some of the controversies, including allegations of widespread corruption and mismanagement of then-President Jacob Zuma’s administration, be dealt with quietly within the party.
His name is trending on Twitter in South Africa, where many are paying tribute to his inspiring leadership, openness, kindness, and humor.
A leader in communications is gone. 💔
A man who inspired some of us in so many ways regardless of political differences.
These are my very last shots I captured of Minister Jackson Mthembu when political leaders met in March 2020 to discuss COVID-19.
Lala ngoxolo Mvelase. pic.twitter.com/bb9UTLOOMb
— Azola Mboniswa 🇿🇦 (@AzolaMboniswa) January 21, 2021
Minister Mthembu would calm the nation down whenever there was confusion or Cupcake was late. Such a rare politician.
— Jesse Strokes (@Fragiie_Millz) January 21, 2021
Jackson Mthembu served. And he did it with humility and kindness. His inclination towards humour even during tough times was what always personally tickled me about him. I know this quality will be missed by many. South Africa is poorer for his passing. Rest, Mvelase. pic.twitter.com/b1J1t0xSQD
— miss g (@honeybmissg) January 21, 2021