President Cyril Ramaphosa has described the passing of Minister in the Presidency, Jackson Mthembu, as a great tragedy, particularly at a time when government is striving to return to a path of integrity, selfless service and transformation.
Mthembu, who passed away on Thursday due to COVID-19 related complications, was laid to rest at Pretoria Memorial Park Cemetery on Sunday.
In a moving eulogy delivered at the official funeral service held at Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Ackerville, Mpumalanga, Ramaphosa said Mthembu worked ever so hard on a daily basis to advance the cause of his political home, the African National Congress. He gave selflessly of his time and energy to the government he swore to serve, the Constitution he pledged to defend and protect, and his greatest loyalty was reserved for the country and its people.
"As we pay homage to him today, let us remember him for what he was, a servant leader, who loved the people of this great land and put them above the love of party, leader, and of self, "Ramaphosa.
In honouring Mthembu, the President said his mission of renewing and rebuilding his beloved movement, and restoring the nation’s faith in government by building an ethical State must be continued by those left behind.
"Minister Mthembu was a kind and gentle soul but when it came to corruption, to self-serving leadership and brazen abuse of power, you would see another side to him.
"He was never deceived by the false smiles and empty promises of those who sought to enrich themselves at the expense of the poor and the weak.
"He called them out and he didn’t care if they were more powerful than he was. He risked his life for the liberation of our country and despaired as we stumbled and lost our way.
"It is the greatest tragedy to have lost him, particularly at this time, as we strive to return to a path of integrity, of selfless service and transformation, "Ramaphosa said.
He praised Mthembu for being a beacon of hope when the nation was close to despair, lifting spirits and bringing clarity, certainty and the utmost professionalism to every task he was assigned.
"Mvelase was among those infinitely rare individuals in our politically-charged society. He was admired and respected across party lines. It has been profoundly touching to witness how the news of Jackson Mthembu’s passing stilled the clatter and bickering that has consumed us in recent times and united us in our sorrow.
"One dare hope that the sentiment that has been displayed at Jackson Mthembu’s passing is a reminder that we have far more in common than we may choose to believe, whether as members of society or as political parties, "Ramaphosa said.
He described Mthembu's loss as one he felt acutely, calling him a dear friend, whose many virtues he observed over the many years of the friendship they shared.
He was generous in spirit and had a charming personality. He had the endearing ability to lift my mood and fortify my resolve in even the most difficult situations.
"He had a sense of humour that was often most irreverent. He laughed – with his entire body – about things that he probably shouldn’t have, just as he cared deeply about everything that he should," an emotional Ramaphosa said.
Mthembu’s memorial service was due to be held on Saturday but was postponed after engagements between the presidency and his family.