‘He laughed – with his entire body – about things that he probably shouldn’t have.’ That was the poignant line delivered by Cyril Ramaphosa on Sunday morning, during the funeral of Jackson Mthembu. The minister passed away on Thursday, after he was diagnosed with COVID-19 the week before.
Cyril Ramaphosa’s tribute to Jackson Mthembu
The president eulogised his fallen comrade perfectly. He spoke about Mthembu’s popularity across the political divide, describing the minister as an ‘intellectual force’ and ‘a leader of real stature’. Ramaphosa, speaking entirely from the heart, said it was ‘unbearable’ that he’d never get to see his friend again. Cyril was very open about his ‘heartbroken’ reaction.
The cruelty of the COVID-19 pandemic is perhaps exemplified by Mthembu’s death. He was the government’s eyes and ears when it came to communicating updates to the media and the public respectively. Despite his vital role, Mthembu became a victim of the disease he desperately tried to prevent from spreading – and SA remains in mourning.
Statement from the president
“For those who knew him, who worked alongside him, who counted and relied on him, who were led by him, who learned from him, who loved him, it is unbearable that we will never see him again. I was shocked and heartbroken when I received the news of Minister Mthembu’s untimely passing. The news struck a deep and solemn note.”
“We have lost so many lives to this disease. There have been tears and grief in so many homes. We have had to endure so much that at times it has seemed too great to bear. And now the stroke of death has taken the very one who has been our citadel, our rock, and our tower of strength at this dreadful moment in our country’s history.”
“During the pandemic, he carried our message of compassion, solidarity, and unity. Minister Mthembu was at the forefront of our national effort to contain the coronavirus pandemic. He has left a void in our government, in the movement to which he dedicated his life and in the country of which he was such a proud citizen.”
We need more men and women like him, who understand and appreciate that we are all heading in the same direction, and that the onward march to a better South Africa is so much easier if we work together.
He was a man who was greatly respected and loved.
— Cyril Ramaphosa 🇿🇦 #StaySafe (@CyrilRamaphosa) January 24, 2021