Speaking recently at the funeral of former Minister in the Presidency, Mr Jackson Mthembu, the Speaker of the National Assembly (NA), Ms Thandi Modise, described him as the servant of the people who perfectly and appropriately understood the deeper meaning of representation of the people. “We have lost a representative of the people, a Chief Whip and a Member of Parliament, who would always say ‘I am available’, ‘ngikhona’, when sis Baleka and I called him to say ‘There is an issue’,” Ms Modise recollected.

Listing other fallen, gallant comrades who fought courageously against apartheid alongside Mr Mthembu, including the late Parks Mankahlana (former President Nelson Mandela’s spokesperson), Ms Modise recalled that Mr Mthembu “held the bulls of apartheid by their horns”. He distinguished himself by the depths of his commitment to the triumphant struggle for constitutional democracy in South Africa.

While tracing Mr Mthembu’s parliamentary legacy, Ms Modise recollected that his service began when he was deployed by the African National Congress (ANC) to the Senate, which was to become the National Council of Provinces. Later, he was deployed to the Mpumalanga Legislature, where he became the Speaker of the Legislature and then MEC for roads and transport.

“Mr Mthembu understood that when you are a Member of Parliament you have not gone there for yourself, but for the people. You don’t speak for yourself, but on their behalf and you hear on their behalf,” Ms Modise said.

She also praised Mr Mthembu as a good mediator and someone who put his commitment to the principle of unity and Parliament’s constitutional mandate above party politics.

Mr Mthembu was redeployed to Parliament after the 2009 general elections and became a Member of the NA. He remained there after the 2014 general elections, when he served on a number of parliamentary committees and was the Chairperson of the Portfolio Committee on Environmental Affairs, a position he held until he was appointed as the Chief Whip of the majority party in the NA. Ms Modise noted that Mr Mthembu was a good leader who understood that in this role you will experience conflict, not only between the political parties represented in Parliament, but also between the legislative and the executive arms of state.

Ms Modise called on all Members of Parliament to rededicate themselves to fighting the coronavirus pandemic in the name of Jackson Mthembu.

In welcoming the whips of various political parties represented in Parliament at Mr Mthembu’s funeral, the Minister of Mineral Resources Mr Gwede Mantashe (one of programme director during the funeral) said Mr Mthembu is regarded by the ANC as one of the best chief whips.

By Mava Lukani
26 January 2021