KwaZulu-Natal Premier Sihle Zikalala has expressed shock at the passing away of Transport, Community Safety and Liaison MEC, Bheki Ntuli.
“We are deeply shocked and extremely hurt by these developments,” he said.
The MEC, who was 64-years-old, passed away on Saturday at a Durban hospital due to COVID-19 related complications.
Affectionately known by his clan name “Mphemba”, Zikalala appointed Ntuli as the MEC in 2019.
He described him as a humble, loyal, dedicated, hard-working and exemplary servant of the people of KwaZulu-Natal.
“MEC Ntuli has been on the frontline, working day in and out in all government efforts to mitigate the impact of COVID-19 on citizens,” he said. “He is a soldier who died with his boots on.”
The Premier said he was a team player, who always led from the front, including when it came to fighting the pandemic in the province.
“He was often at the coalface of this epic battle from the time the first case was confirmed in March 2020. He led many campaigns against the virus as the Chair of the Justice, Crime Prevention Cluster with the Provincial Command Council.”
“He always tackled his tasks and responsibilities with aplomb – despite their complex and sensitive nature,” Zikalala added.
According to the province, Ntuli implemented several programmes aimed at reversing the tide of gender-based violence, taxi violence and reducing the carnage on the province’s roads.
“He has consistently displayed exceptional leadership and wisdom. His charm and charisma enabled him to tackle the most challenging aspect of his portfolio. He crisscrossed the province ensuring that people adhere to the COVID-19 protocols.”
Zikalala said his loss is a major blow to the province’s efforts to improve the lived experience of the people of KwaZulu-Natal in various spheres of life.
He cut his political teeth working in the ANC underground structures and was a liberation fighter, who was involved in uMkhonto WeSizwe underground operations. He previously served as a shop steward of the National Union of Metal Workers of South Africa (NUMSA) and was involved in the formation of ANC structures in the then Northern Natal region.
He has also served as a Member of Council, and the Chairperson of the Council of the University of Zululand.
He had many tertiary qualifications, including a teaching certificate, a degree in management from UCT Graduate School of Business; a certificate in leadership from Wits University and a postgraduate diploma in research, strategic diplomacy and transitional justice from the University of Johannesburg.
“We are very saddened by his demise, and wish to convey our sincerest condolences to his family and the rest of the Provincial Executive.”