South African President Cyril Ramaphosa says it is hard for him to comprehend Johannesburg mayor Jolidee Matongo’s tragic death in a car crash Saturday.
Matongo is a Zimbabwean who defied the odds last month by becoming mayor of arguably the continent’s most popular city, also known for xenophobic attacks on foreigners.
He died few hours after accompanying Ramaphosa on a local government voter registration drive in Soweto.
In a statement Saturday, Ramaphosa described Matongo’s death as tragic.
“It is hard to comprehend this tragedy, given the vitality and passion with which Mayor Matongo interacted with me and residents of Soweto so shortly before his death.
“Nothing could prepare any of us for this sudden loss, which has deprived our nation’s economic centre of its second Executive Mayor in two months.
“Matongo has been taken from us at a time when he was totally immersed in improving conditions and creating opportunities for all the people of Johannesburg and stakeholders in the metropolitan economy. Like all of us, he was looking forward to the forthcoming election, and we saw in person today that he had put his heart and soul into mobilising the people of the city to make their voices heard on 1 November.”
Matongo had been elected unopposed as Joburg mayor, succeeding Geoff Makhubo, who died in July of Covid-19 complications.