The Media Development and Diversity Agency (MDDA) has joined the rest of the South African community in mourning the passing of Minister in the Presidency, Jackson Mthembu.
The Agency said the news of his departure have left them extremely shocked and devastated.
MDDA is one of the state agencies that were under Mthembu’s command as the political head.
The Agency said in the passing of Mthembu, South Africa has lost one of its most dedicated and greatest leaders.
“It is very hard to find the right words to pay a fitting tribute to such a remarkable servant of the people, save to say he was a gallant, selfless, dedicated and passionate leader whose heart was firmly rooted in the upliftment of the vulnerable, marginalised and disadvantaged.
“For him, the principles of Batho Pele were a part of his whole being. He lived and breathed these principles. He affirmed for us the goodness in humanity and leadership,” said MDDA in a media statement.
The Agency praised him for his open leadership style and his willingness to be always being accessible to and personally interacting with those that he led and worked with.
The Agency further explained how Mthembu had a steely resolve in promoting and advocating for media development and diversity. “He always, without fail, emphasised the critical role of community and small commercial media in the battle of ideas, freedom of expression and media freedom. He was therefore deeply concerned that the sector is facing an unceasing battle for survival, particularly those serving poor rural communities. In these areas, the existence of a local media project is often the community’s only access to the media.”
Mthembu is said to have always given a voice to the sector’s growing plight in the face of advancements brought by the 4th Industrial Revolution , severe undervaluing of community media and reduction of advertising budgets across sectors, amongst others.
These sustainability issues were brought into sharp focus with the economic upheavals triggered by the Covid-19 pandemic. With this disconcerting reality, Mthembu impressed upon the MDDA to prioritise and ensure that a community media sustainability model is realised and implemented.
MDDA bemoaned that Mthembu’s sudden departure comes at a time that plans are afoot to commence a comprehensive research in the sustainability model for community media.
Since his appointment, Mthembu committed to bring stability to the MDDA through filling the long-standing board vacancies and the appointment of a permanent CEO.
At the community media sustainability consultative conference held in August 2020 he said, “As promised when I was appointed to this responsibility and at my first interaction with the sector, I stated that I will prioritise installing leadership stability at MDDA. As you all know by now, Parliament has completed the process of appointing the board members for the existing four vacancies and will be initiating the process for the upcoming two vacancies in October 2020. I instructed the Board to prioritise the appointment of the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) and that was achieved, Ms Potye is now the MDDA CEO.”
Mthembu was further descibed as results oriented and it therefore came as no surprise that he committed himself to being at the forefront of the MDDA fundraising strategy. This saw the Minister vigorously engaging with the private sector and international funders; efforts that were targeted at improving the Agency’s capital base in order to increase funding for MDDA beneficiaries, especially print and digital media projects. He was also a constant feature at the Funders Breakfast, an annual event held with current and prospective funders on MDDA key interventions, to report on previous funding commitments and present future projects for consideration.
“It is often said that true leaders are in the service of their people. They act with integrity and in the process establish trust. They genuinely value their people which then results in loyalty. True leaders are in the service of assisting people realise their full potential and in so doing inspire excellence.
“Minister Jackson Mthembu was a true leader. While he never shied away from constructive criticism and robust debate, his real power was rooted in his humility. This enabled him to act decisively, compassionately and ethically; thereby cementing himself as a distinguished leader, who had the ability to navigate any engagement, lead the government communications machinery and take public criticism with the greatest finesse and grace.
“It may seem hackneyed to say that Minister Mthembu will be missed or that he went away too soon; but it is true. As the MDDA and community media sector, we are indeed left poorer by his sudden departure and will miss him dearly.
With the setting of the sun on a life well lived, our unshakable responsibility is to carry the baton and forge ahead towards building a resilient and sustainable community media sector.
Lala ngoxolo Mvelase!” as MDDA paid tribute to Mthembu