South Africa’s Minister in the Presidency Jackson Mthembu has died of the coronavirus, President Cyril Ramaphosa confirmed on Thursday. He was 62.
After his office announced that he tested positive for Covid-19 on January 11, Minister Mthembu died 10 days later to become the first cabinet minister to succumb to the virus.
“It is with deep sorrow and shock that we announce that Minister in the Presidency Jackson Mthembu passed away earlier today from Covid-19related complications,” President Ramaphosa announced.
“Our thoughts and prayers are with his family at this time of loss. Minister Mthembu was an exemplary leader, an activist and life-long champion of freedom and democracy.
“He was a much-loved and greatly respected colleague and comrade, whose passing leaves our nation at a loss. I extend my deepest sympathies to the Minister’s family, to his colleagues, comrades and many friends.”
Second wave of Covid-19
Before becoming minister, Mthembu served as the chief whip of Parliament for the ruling African National Congress, a party he also served as its national spokesperson.
While he becomes the first South African minister to die of the coronavirus, a number of ministers in President Ramaphosa’s cabinet have survived after positive tests.
They include Minister of Mineral Resources Gwede Mantashe, Employment and Labour Minister Thulas Nxesi as well as their Health counterpart Dr Zweli Mkhize.
Mthembu’s death comes at a time when South Africa is battling to deal with the second wave of Covid-19 infections which saw the country hitting an all-time high of 21,980 cases in one day on January 8.
A total of 839 deaths were recorded on Tuesday in what was a record figure registered in one day. The country is currently on an adjusted level three lockdown.