Tributes pour in for ‘humble’ education MEC

Mandla Makupula dies in hospital after long illness

Described as a humble yet steadfast education activist, Eastern Cape education MEC Mandla Makupula – who had to steer a beleaguered department through many a storm over the province’s dismal matric pass rate – has died.
His death in the early hours of Monday – a day before his 58th birthday – follows a long illness which led to his admission to St Dominics Hospital in East London in late September.
Family, friends and colleagues of the unassuming but usually jovial character said scores of tributes had been flooding in as the news spread.
Tsolo-born Makupula had been at the helm of the provincial education department since 2010 and a member of the Eastern Cape provincial legislature since 1999.
Premier Phumulo Masualle expressed his condolences in a statement on behalf of the provincial government which, he said, was saddened by Makupula’s passing.
“He served the people of the Eastern Cape with integrity and ethical leadership. On behalf of the entire provincial government, the premier expresses his heartfelt condolences to friends, colleagues and family of the late MEC,” the statement said.
Despite seeing the matric pass rate rise from 58.3% in 2010 to 65.8% in 2017, Makupula’s suitability for the job was brought into question early in 2017 following the release of the 2016 matric results, with the province occupying the lowest rank for the seventh consecutive year.
At the time, Masualle described the results as “an embarrassment”. However, Masualle said he would not sack Makupula despite pressure from education stakeholders.
Makupula obtained a BSc degree from Walter Sisulu University and a higher diploma in education from the same institution.
He served in various structures in the ANC after teaching physical science at several schools across the province.
Parliamentary liaison officer for education and close family friend Mziwandile Mampunye said he was one of the privileged few who had the opportunity to visit Makupula shortly before his death.
“When we visited him in hospital we could see the road he was taking. But I feel fortunate to have known him in a work and casual environment.
“We have lost a humble yet steadfast education activist.
“Tributes have been pouring in to the family. But it is all still very fresh and we are almost in a state of disbelief that the day has come,” Mampunye said.
Basic education minister Angie Motshekga will fly to East London on Tuesday to meet with the Makupula family and offer her condolences.
“MEC Makupula was a dedicated and hardworking public representative who was committed to turning the education system around in the Eastern Cape,” Motshekga said.
“It is incredibly sad that he will not live to see the fruits of the hard work he has put in – however, his legacy will live on through the education initiatives he put in place to improve the quality and efficiency of education in that province.”
Education unions SAOU, Sadtu and Naptosa all extended their condolences to the Makupula family. The department of education’s Facebook page also received a stream of messages of condolence.
Makupula is survived by his wife Gugu and three children.
Office of the premier spokesperson Sizwe Kupelo said Masualle had on October 1 appointed human settlements MEC Mlungisi Mvoko to serve as acting education MEC for the month in light of Makupula’s hospitalisation.
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