Jackson – communicator, mentor par excellence

By Zizi Kodwa

Johannesburg – The passing of comrade Jackson Mthembu (Mvelase) has left the democratic movement numb, speechless and devoid of energy.

If it were possible for the departed to preside over their own funerals, Mthembu, in his own colourful eloquence, would have reminded us of the importance of ethical behaviour in leadership.

Mthembu was a bastion of hope that shone like a twinkling star in the valley of darkness. He was born to crowd out despair and that is why he joined the struggle against apartheid at an early age. He dedicated his entire life to the struggle for justice at great personal cost.

He embodied the core values of the ANC with zeal and panache. Mvelase was a rare breed of principled comrades who embraced humility and spoke truth to power at the risk of jeopardising their own personal circumstance. He disavowed pomposity for its emptiness. He was the proverbial brother’s keeper.

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He was my brother, he was my keeper – the most handsome man. Mthembu charmed his way into newsrooms and editors’ desks with ease but without fanfare in order to project the message of his party and government to the glee of all and sundry.

He was a communicator par excellence.

That Mthembu is today praised and eulogised by competing political parties in the South African political landscape is a cogent testament to his generosity of spirit and will; the will to see a better life for all South Africans irrespective of colour or creed.

As a gifted communicator, Mvelase was always at hand to will on fellow comrades to be true to the covenant that binds them to the colours of the ANC.

In a way, Mvelase personified the ANC at its best. Much as he worked with and learned a lot from erstwhile ANC communication guru Saki Macozoma, I in turn learnt a lot from him.

I lost a mentor, a dependable cadre whose loyalty to the ANC is above reproach. It was Mvelase that in later years when we both became members of parliament in 2014 approached me and said: “Ziziman, as you know the ANC has no spokesperson, I think you should consider going to Luthuli House.”

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I was hesitant as we had just been sworn in as MPs, but he explained why he recommended me. I immediately agreed. The conversation I had with Mvelase made it easy when I was later approached by then secretary-general of the ANC, Gwede Mantashe, that I should resign as an MP and join him at Luthuli House as the ANC national spokesperson.

I thank him for trusting me with such a huge responsibility.

I thank him for being a mentor and for his guidance during the most difficult times. We are poorer without him.

As he joins the galaxy of ancestors, he must please continue to guide us to remain committed to the service of the people.


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