Deputy minister in the presidency for women, youth and persons with disabilities, Prof Hlengiwe Mkhize, has died at the age of 69.
Mkhize, who was also an ANC NEC member, passed away in the early hours of Thursday after a short illness, according to communications director in her office, Shalen Gajadhar.
“We wish to extend our heartfelt condolences to the family, friends, colleagues, comrades, and the many citizens affected by this tragic news.
“Deputy minister Mkhize served this country with an unwavering spirit and her contribution to advancing the democratic goals of this country will be remembered for the longest time.”
President Cyril Ramaphosa said Mkhize’s passing constitutes a national loss.
“Prof Mkhize’s legacy is indelible across so many dimensions and sectors of our national life. She distinguished herself as a tireless and passionate anti-apartheid and human rights activist, and campaigner for an end to gender inequality.”
He said she played a crucial role in conflict resolution during SA’s transition to democracy.
“We owe Prof Mkhize our gratitude and deep respect for the commitment she displayed as a commissioner of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission [TRC], chairperson of the Reparations and Rehabilitation Committee, and trustee of the National Peace Accord Trust.”
Ramaphosa said Mkhize also led a multifaceted path as an academic, from the universities of Zululand, Natal and South Africa, to Mississippi and Illinois in the US.
“She applied her extraordinary personal achievements to the upliftment of traumatised children, to asserting the equality of oppressed women, to upholding the human rights of victimised and persecuted people around the world, and ensuring the doors of learning would open wide to new generations of South Africans.
“She played her part unselfishly and with great love for humanity. Our task is to keep her legacy intact and build on it.”
Mkhize was first appointed a member of the National Assembly in 2009 and served in various positions.
During her appointment, she sought to “deal with the question of ensuring that the youth are educated and skilled for employment”, according to parliamentary records.
Mkhize had been acting as minister since 2019. Before that, she served as minister of higher education and training and as deputy minister in the correctional services and telecommunications ministries.
Mkhize also served as SA’s ambassador to the Netherlands from 2005 to 2008.
She was then the deputy minister of correctional services from May 2009 to June 2012, and the deputy minister of economic development from June 2012 until May 2014.
Taking to social media, UDM leader Bantu Holomisa paid tribute to Mkhize shortly after news of her death broke.
“My condolences to her family and her organisation, the ANC. She rose to prominence when she was one of the TRC commissioners. A very passionate individual about her work. RIP Sisi.”
Mkhize’s death is the second to have struck the presidency this year. Minister in the presidency Jackson Mthembu died of Covid-19 related complications at the age of 62.