Deputy President David Mabuza has described the passing of late Minister in the Presidency Jackson Mthembu as a “premature departure of a representative of a great generation”.
“The likes of Minister Mthembu, come to pass this way once,” Mabuza said. “In their wake, they leave us the gifts of liberty and freedom; in their commendable journey they leave us footprints of a well-fought struggle; and they take with them the well-deserved glories of reverence.”
The deputy president was speaking during a virtual memorial service on Monday in honour of the late minister who died from complications related to Covid-19 last Thursday at the age of 62.
He was laid to rest on Sunday during an official government funeral held in his hometown of Emalahleni, Mpumalanga.
Mabuza said Mthembu belonged to the well-known generation of freedom fighters, whose contribution to South Africa’s freedom and democracy deserved to be cherished for generations.
“Minister Mthembu symbolises a generation of freedom fighters, who came of political age after June 1976, to leave us footprints of a well-fought struggle against apartheid and a well-trodden journey to build the foundations of democracy in South Africa,” Mabuza said.
Mabuza said the late minister – who was a prominent feature in the government’s Covid-19 media briefings – had overcome a lot of personal adversities and tragic moments in his life, and used those experiences to inspire hope in others.
“This was a man who was always willing to meet anyone and everyone irrespective of their social standing. This was a man full of empathy and compassion, committed to the values of human solidarity and servant leadership,” he said.
South Africa has been unjustly robbed of a champion for social justice for the marginalised and destitute, Mabuza said.
“Without a doubt, the untimely passing of Minister Mthembu is a loss not only to his family, but an unforeseen grief, shared by many from diverse political formations and ideological orientations more especially those who admired his humanity.
“It is not surprising to find that leaders from different sectors of society and in the media fraternity, stand undivided in commending the personal and professional attributes of Minister Jackson Mthembu,” he said.