'What a calm soul': nurse describes late minister Jackson Mthembu

Called Cyril Ramaphosa his true friend, joked about Bheki Cele's dancing

24 January 2021 - 12:08
Mavis Mahlakoane, a nurse from Johannesburg's Milpark Hospital, attended to former minister in the presidency Jackson Mthembu before his death.
Mavis Mahlakoane, a nurse from Johannesburg's Milpark Hospital, attended to former minister in the presidency Jackson Mthembu before his death.
Image: SA Government/Twitter

A nurse who looked after the late minister Jackson Mthembu while he was in hospital described him as a “calm” and “humble soul”.

“What a calm soul. We didn’t nurse a 'do you know who I am person’. He was humble,” said Mavis Mahlakoane, who works at Johannesburg's Millpark hospital. Mthembu died of Covid-19 complications on Thursday.

She said when she offered Mthembu breakfast on Wednesday, a day after he was admitted to hospital, he told her that his wife would bring food.

“We had a conversation that day as if we had known each other for a long time.

“He called me. He opened his phone and showed me one of his videos. It was Bheki Cele dancing. He said when he left the hospital he would show him how to dance.”

Mahlakoane said Mthembu did not want her to call him minister.

“He said you can pick any name you want to call me, but don’t call me minister.

“Around 5pm, when I was preparing his medication, he asked for his phone. He said, 'I want to call my true friend.' He said 'Cyril [Ramaphosa] is the man who knows me better than anyone',” Mahlakoane said.

She said Mthembu had asked her to pray with him.

“He said he was struggling that day. He said the oxygen was cold. He complained of his throat being sore and cold. I made him rooibos.”

Mthembu, according to Mahlakoane, kept saying Ramaphosa would be disappointed. She did not understand what he meant.

“Within a wink of an eye, his sats [oxygen saturation] dropped. I asked him to put on his oxygen. The doctor came and said he would put him on an NIV machine.

“He said, ‘no this is uncomfortable’ ... We intubated Mthembu.”

She said Mthembu’s health had then deteriorated further. “We tried. All the doctors came. We resuscitated him ...," she said.

“We’ve lost as a nation.”

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