Jackson Mthembu

The South African National Editors’ Forum has paid tribute to the late Minister Jackson Mthembu who died on Thursday, describing him as an ally and defender of media freedom and freedom of expression.

Mthembu, who was a minister in the presidency, died on Thursday due to complications related to Covid-19. He had tested positive for the virus about a fortnight ago, on January 11.

Mthembu had also previously served as the spokesperson of the ANC in Mpumalanga and the provincial executive and also as spokesperson for the ANC at national level.

He became a minister when President Cyril Ramaphosa ascended to the presidency.

SANEF chairperson Sbu Ngalwa said he would be remembered as a ‘friend and defender of media freedom and freedom of expression’.

“Throughout his tenure, he showed tremendous respect for and gave journalists from mainstream media to community media equal opportunities and access to leaders.

“He did not discriminate between senior and young journalists and ensured that they got the chance to ask questions.

“He always strove to build bridges and forged the professional spirit between media and politics,” said Ngalwa.

At his time of passing, Ngalwa said Mthembu was at the centre, working with SANEF, to organise a dialogue with Ramaphosa to find sustainable solutions to a funding model for the media sector in South Africa.

“He was also organizing the first, in over 10 years, lekgotla between the executive and SANEF. It was also going to be the first under the Ramaphosa Administration.

“SANEF regards his death also as a great loss of a voice of reason and an ally of the freedom of expression inside the governing party. He stood up and defended media freedom. He had frank and honest qualities in dealing with the media that are rare among politicians.

“Our thoughts and prayers are with his family at this time of great loss. He will leave a great void in the presidency,” said Ngalwa.

Meanwhile, Health Minister Zweli Mkhize announced 647 Covid deaths in all nine provinces and over 11 000 new infections on Thursday night.

This takes South Africa’s Covid-19 infections to over 1.3 million infections since March, with the death toll now 39 501 virus related deaths.

The number of recoveries in the country stands at over 1.1 million recoveries, which means there is a recovery rate of about 85.7% currently.

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