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JOHANNESBURG: Jackson Mthembu, a minister and presidential advisor who was the public face of South Africa's fight against Covid, has died from the virus, the presidency said Thursday.

"It is with deep sorrow and shock that we announce that minister in the presidency Jackson Mthembu passed away earlier today from Covid-related complications," President Cyril Ramaphosa said in a statement. "Mthembu was an exemplary leader, an activist and life-long champion of freedom and democracy," he said. Mthembu, 62, was the senior-most of six South African cabinet members who have contracted Covid-19, and the first to die from the disease.

His death follows that on Wednesday of Zimbabwe's foreign minister, Sibusiso Moyo - the third minister in South Africa's neighbour to succumb to the microbe. Mthembu last week announced he had tested positive during a check-up for "abdominal pain" and said plans were underway to test his family members and close associates.

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