A humble servant that had humility who was trusted was a unifier and wanted a better South Africa for all. Late Minister in the Presidency Jackson Mthembu was laid to rest at his home in Emalahleni, Mpumalanga on Sunday.
Ramaphosa who delivered the eulogy said a great shadow is hanging heavy across Mpumlanaga and the rest of South Africa.
“For those who knew him, worked alongside him, those who counted on him, lead by him and those who loved him, it is unbearable that we will never see him again. I was shocked, heartbroken when I received the news of his passing from the Minister of Health Dr Zweli Mkhize and the doctor who was treating him.
“We have lost so many lives to this deadly virus, we have cried so many tears and the stroke of death has taken one of our own. When our spirits were down he would try to uplift them, he has left a huge void, some have even suggested that he is irreplaceable, that there will only be one Jackson Mthembu. ”
Ramaphosa said it has been quite touching that the news of Mthembu’s death united opposition parties with their same sorrow, a reminder that we have far more in common than we may choose to believe.
“As we laid him to rest may others follow in his footsteps, may we put the love of country before love of self. May we forever stand for the sake of right.” The president thanked health workers, those who treated Mthembu, colleagues and his wife Thembi Mthembu, sending his condolences to the family.
“I have lost a dear friend, it is a loss I feel most keenly. Minister Mthembu had many virtues that I had observed over the years, he had the enduring ability to lift anybody’s mood even my mood through difficult situations. He laughed like someone who really loved life. He was a principle person and a man with great courage.
“Above many other things Jackson Mthembu was a very honest man, no matter of the cost to him personally. I remember him for his kindness and above all his sense of calm…he was also a voice of reason and had great wisdom.”
Makhonsini Nkosi a friend, gave an emotional and teary tribute as he recalled how his friendship with Mthembu started over 40 years ago. Nkosi said Mthembu used to be a very funny character, a man of faith and stressed in his last year the importance of following protocols to prevent the spread of the virus.
He passed away on Thursday, 21 January, from Covid-19 complications. The minister tested positive earlier this month and was 62 at the time of his death.
“He treated everyone like his friend, even the man on the street, people used to know him everywhere he went. It was important to him that things were done the right way and ethically,” Nkosi said.
One of the daughters of Mtembu, Thuli Mthembu paid tribute on behalf of the siblings.
She said: “Daddy you have accomplished so much in your life yet we felt we were your biggest accomplishments. That we were your biggest flex. You taught us humility, to work hard. I am sad that you won’t be teaching this to all our kids…
“You are the hardest working man I know…lala ngoxolo. ”
Mthembu was admitted on 19 January at Milpark Hospital KwaZulu-Natal, one of the nurses Mavis Mahlakoane who treated the politician said they created a quick bond during his hospitalisation.
She described how his condition worsened within two days, Mthembu admitted that he wasn’t getting better.
“We tried, we resuscitated him, he just went down, up until his last breath that was 13.20pm.”
She added: “What a calm man, baba Mthembu was very calm. I would like to say this to family to the presidency, we didn’t nurse a ‘do you know who I am a person’.”
Mahlakoane explained that Mthembu said to her the president is the only man who understands him the most. “He would say Cyril will be so disappointed, I didn’t know what he meant, only now it makes sense.”
“…May his beloved soul rest in peace.”