South Africa: Jackson Mthembu - an Honest, Principled Man Who Served the ANC and Government to the Best of His Considerable Ability

Minister in the Presidency Jackson Mthembu briefing the media on outcomes of a Cabinet meeting in August 2019.

I am devastated by his untimely and early demise; a comrade a good 20 years younger than me.

I first met Jackson Mthembu at ANC headquarters in 1990, and thought he was a visiting American boxing celebrity paying his respects.

His size and bearing conveyed that impression, and especially that gentle and calm bearing of the assured pugilist, confident and easy in his own skin, which was a hallmark of the man.

It was Mathews Phosa who broke the spell, and introduced us, confiding in me that Jackson was not simply the public UDF leader of repute, but one of the ANC underground members we had run from Mozambique. That clinched our relationship, which warmed over the next few years, as we worked together creating the public structures of the ANC. I headed the campaigns committee of the ANC's organising department at national level, and he was the representative of the then Eastern Transvaal.

He was always quiet and attentive in committee meetings, as though listening to the coach in his corner of the boxing ring, his head nodding in assent, and making his own contribution in words, and then in the deeds of implementation of our plans on the...

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