Organised business mourns the passing today of Jackson Mthembu – one of South Africa’s hardest-working Ministers and a reliable social partner to engage with.
In the recent period, alongside President Cyril Ramaphosa and Health Minister Dr Zweli Mkhize, Minister Mthembu became the public face of government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, through countless public engagements. How tragic, then, to hear that it was the very pandemic which took his life.
Minister Mthembu’s easygoing, persuasive public conversations about the Corona virus and the importance of responsible behaviour will remain with us long after his passing – as will the other important contributions he made as a Minister, as a Member of Parliament and, in his younger days, as a freedom fighter.
Minister Mthembu showed great courage – for example, while he was the Chief Whip of the ANC, which required him to stand firm on the need to act against the increasingly corrupt Jacob Zuma in extremely difficult circumstances. We salute him for that. He was, in many ways, almost larger than life – an animated conversationalist with the power of persuasion, always committed to doing the right thing and accepting responsibility, and a role model for anyone embracing the vital concept of leadership with integrity.
As with all those who have lost their lives to COVID-19, the greatest tribute we can pay is to embrace and enact the advice Minister Mthembu provided at every media conference and public engagement: we must wash our hands regularly, observe social distancing, wear facemasks in public and use government’s COVID-19 app.
May his soul Rest in Peace
Sipho M Pityana
President of Busines Unity South Africa