A Tribute to a Selfless Servant of the People, A Cadre of Unquestionable Loyalty and Dedication to the ANC until the end by Seiso Mohai, ANC MP and Chairperson of the ANC Parliamentary Caucus

25 January 2021

It has been a dim moment in the ANC Parliamentary Caucus since Thursday, 21 January 2021 when the Presidency sounded bells to summon the attention of the country to the passing away of Comrade Jackson Mthembu; a selfless servant of the people, and a cadre of unquestionable loyalty and dedication to our movement, the African National Congress. We therefore join many South Africans in mourning and celebrating the life of this fallen giant of our movement.

The life of Mthembu will go down the annals of history as a life lived meaningfully and to the fullest. Comrade Mthembu was a loving husband, a caring father, a community leader, a principled and uncompromising revolutionary fighter, a great unifier, and indeed, an honest cadre who spoke truth to power. Often he spoke his truth at great personal and political risks. His principled outlook and moral force were instrumental in ushering in the era of unity and renewal. He stood in defence of the revolutionary principles and traditions of our movement until the end. 

We shall remember him for his rare revolutionary ethic which distinguished him from many leaders of our movement. Key among these was his ability to make his political views known without seeking popular support and his willingness to subject his private life to public scrutiny. Comrade Mthembu indeed belonged to the outstanding, courageous and special generation of leadership that strived unity and renewal of our movement. He was undoubtedly one of the greatest giants of our struggle and genuine activists for fundamental change.

As a tried and tested cadre of the movement, Comrade Mthembu understood too well that he served the movement at its pleasure not at his own accord. It is precisely for this reason that he was able to serve the movement in different capacities with distinction and without any sense of entitlement. 

I personally had the honor of serving closely with Comrade Mthembu when he was deployed as the Chief Whip of the Majority Party during an arguably difficult period in parliament since the birth of our democracy. Upon his appointment as Chief Whip, a responsibility which he assumed after Comrade Stone Sizane, Comrade Mthembu worked extraordinarily hard to ensure a seamless transition. Their political maturity and shared sense of quality leadership meant that the ANC Parliamentary Caucus was now poised to move swiftly in responding to its objective and subjective challenges. Throughout this period, Comrade Mthembu embodied the basic tenet in our movement of subordinating personal views to the collective wisdom of the majority. He exhibited a deep appreciation that the party of revolution without the support of the decisive majority of the masses deserves no future. 

Comrade Mthembu’s passing obtains at a critical time in the renewal and unity of the African National Congress and the consolidation of radical socio economic transformation for shared prosperity. As the ANC Parliamentary Caucus, we shall remember Comrade Mthembu for his commitment to positioning parliament as the truest tribunal of the people for the creation of a better tomorrow. He was particularly passionate about the differentiation of oversight roles between the National Assembly and the National Council of Provinces (NCOP); as well as the strengthening of parliamentary oversight over the national executive. 

Guided by the strategic tasks outlined by the 5th National General Council (NGC) of the ANC, Comrade Mthembu held a strong view that the persisting duplication of roles between the National Assembly and NCOP was not only wasteful but created a mockery of our constitutional democracy. In this regard, the NGC directed thus;  

In celebrating the 20 years of the existence of the NCOP it is an opportune time to review the efficacy of this House of Parliament and assess whether it has functioned optimally in discharging its constitutional mandate. This discourse on the NCOP might, among others, provide an opportunity to reconfigure the House, or rather repositioning its future role.”

The 54th ANC national conference reaffirmed this position by further calling for the review of the role of the NCOP in our constitutional democracy in order to position it at the cutting edge of intergovernmental relations. This conference also called for the strengthening of the oversight role of parliament as a final arbiter in the battle of ideas for the building of a national democratic society.

It is no exaggeration that the passing of Comrade Mthembu is sad news for all South Africans. For me personally; I have lost a brother, mentor and leader who was always available to offer me guidance. I used to call him frequently to solicit counsel on a variety of issues and in the end, he would jokingly say; “Comrade Mohai, the rest I shall leave in your capable hands”.    

As we celebrate the life of Comrade Mthembu and declare our resolve to advance his legacy; we shall endeavour to always emulate his modesty, democratic ethos, listening ability and willingness to subject himself to leadership. He devoted his life to the service of humanity in general and the South African people in particular.       

On behalf of ANC Parliamentary Caucus, we extend heartfelt condolences to the Mthembu family, friends and colleagues, the ANC community and the people of South Africa to whom he had dedicated his life. As we lay him to rest, we rejoice in the knowledge that his life was spent in the service of his people.  

Robala ka khotso Mvelase!