A pedestrian passes the perimeter fence of the Presbyterian Church in Bedfordview, Johannesburg South Africa, Wednesday, Jan…
A pedestrian passes the perimeter fence of the Presbyterian Church in Johannesburg, South Africa, Jan. 20, 2021. The fence is covered with ribbons to represent people who have died in the COVID-19 pandemic.

South Africa is mourning the sudden death of Jackson Mthembu, a cabinet minister and presidential adviser who was the public face of South Africa's fight against COVID-19.

President Cyril Ramaphosa offered condolences in a statement Thursday, saying he was shocked and saddened that 62-year-old Mthembu had died from COVID-related complications.

He is the first of six South African cabinet members infected with COVID-19 to succumb to the disease.

Mthembu revealed last week that he tested positive for the virus during a checkup for abdominal pain.

His death comes as South Africa battles a second wave of COVID-19 propelled by a virus variant believed to be more easily spread.

So far, South Africa has confirmed more than 1.3 million infections and 39,501 deaths, according to John Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center. 

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