TRIBUTES have poured in from conservationists and political leaders following the death of South African environmental minister, Edna Molewa.
Molewa, 61, died in Pretoria on 22 September after developing complications with Legionnaires’ disease, her family said in a statement at the weekend.
President Cyril Ramaphosa said Molewa’s passing was a “devastating loss to our nation and to the global community who owe a great debt of gratitude… for her championship nationally and globally for the environmental integrity of a sustainable planet Earth.”
The ANC Women’s League in the North West said Molewa was “held in extremely high regard by international leaders‚ especially in the environmental fraternity”.
The opposition Democratic Alliance and the Economic Freedom Front also sent tributes and condolence to the family of Molewa, who was a labour leader in the 1980s and a founder member of the trade union federation Cosatu.
Greenpeace Africa described Molewa as a “true climate champion” and singled out her contribution to climate change negotiations beyond the 2011 Durban conference.
“In her quest to contribute to global efforts to address priority threats, she provided vision and leadership,” it said.
World Wide Fund (WWF) for Nature chief executive Morné du Plessis said said the minister had made a significant contribution.
He noted she had died on Saturday as South Africa also marked World Rhino Day and that under her watch there had been a decline in rhinoceroses deaths over the past three years.
Molewa headed the South African delegation to a number international negotiations, which led to the adoption of the Sustainable Development Goals, the Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species (Cites), and the international climate change negotiations in Mexico in 2010 and Durban in 2011 – leading to the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris in 2015.
Molewa is credited with spearheading rhino translocation programmes, anti-poaching initiatives, the sale of rhinoceroses to private properties and law enforcement collaboration to tackle poaching.
However, she drew criticism from ecologists over proposals to sell the government’s stockpile of rhino horn.
Her 2015 decision to grant emissions compliance exemptions to power utility Eskom and other big companies also got stick.
While scientists and conservationists have taken her department to task for a lack of action on declaring marine protected areas off the South African coast and accused her department of kow-towing to the gas and oil industry.
Molewa’s handling of the lion bone and captive lion trades also came in for considerable criticism from some quarters
Molewa became the minister of water and environmental affairs in October 2010, as part of a cabinet shuffle by then president Jacob Zuma. In May 2014 her ministry was split and she was appointed minister of environmental affairs.
Before that she had served as minister of social development, premier of the North West Province, and as a provincial minister.
Left a mark
Her brother, Fana Mmethi, said she had left a mark on the lives of the millions of people.
“Hers was a life dedicated to the service of the people, and to the betterment of the people of South Africa in particular,” said Mmethi.
Bomo Edna Edith Molewa was born on 23 March 1957 in Bela-Bela, in the former Transvaal.
She was married to Francis Sethema until his death. The couple had four children together. She later married Richard Molewa, but the union ended in acrimony amid lurid tabloid tales. – Roving Reporters