In a terrible twist, it has now been learnt that one of the doctors who died in a Netcare helicopter crash, had actually been called to save Jackson Mthembu’s life.
Mthembu died from COVID-19-related complications on Thursday, 21 January 2021 – a little over a week after he had tested positive for the virus. On the same day, a Netcare helicopter carrying five people, most of them being medical personnel, went down near Bergville. The helicopter was en route to Durban to fetch a critically ill patient.
Speaking to eNCA, Health Minister Dr Zweli Mkhize revealed that Dr Kgopotso Rudolph Mononyane, an anaesthetist, had attended to Mthembu after his condition deteriorated.
“One of the doctors who passed away in the crash was actually called by a friend, Dr Paul Williams, to come and save Minister Jackson Thembu during the difficult time. He dropped the trip he was supposed to go to in KwaZulu-Natal…They came together to do everything they could to help Minister Jackson and of course, unfortunately on his way out he (had) a fatal accident,” Mkhize said.
In a tragic turn of events, shortly after trying to save Minister Jackson Mthembu’s life, doctor Richard Mononyane died in a helicopter crash. Two doctors, a nurse, paramedic and pilot died when a Netcare medical emergency chopper crashed in Bergville, KZN yesterday. pic.twitter.com/u2Tn1cPwIo
— eNCA (@eNCA) January 22, 2021
The latest developments create an undeniably eerie link between possibly the two biggest news stories for the week. While the full extent of the doctors’ involvement in helping treat Mthembu is not clear at this stage, the helicopter crash itself marks a blow to the medical fraternity, particularly as the country battles the COVID-19 pandemic.
#AviationCrash Reports of a Netcare Chopper that crashed between Colenso and Ladismith, KwaZulu-Natal Midlands. Unconfirmed reports of fatalities. Updates to follow @BOSBEER2006 @1SecondLater @MARIUSBROODRYK @News24 @SAPoliceService @eNCA @SABCNews pic.twitter.com/twUskfJdVD
— BOSBEER.COM (@BOSBEER2006) January 21, 2021
Netcare has reacted to the doctors’ deaths saying: “We are shocked beyond words at the tragic loss of these healthcare heroes. The whole of Netcare falls silent as we bow our heads in tribute, respect, love and memory of our fallen colleagues and frontline heroes who have died in the line of duty,”
At the same time, Jackson Mthembu’s death has not only shocked South Africans but also fellow politicians, who have reminisced on their encounters with the minister. Compared to some of his comrades in the ANC, Mthembu has been relatively scandal-free (as far as his government work) however his personal life has managed to make headlines over the past few years.
Mthembu had been playing a critical role in government, as it manages its response to the COVID-19 pandemic.