Minister of environmental affairs Edna Molewa has passed away at 61 years of age on Saturday, the SABC has reported.
Molewa was premier of the North West and minister of social development before her current position.
The fact that today is World Rhino day is significant, as Molewa was the minister tasked with stemming the tide of rhino poaching.
The ANC has released a statement on her passing.
“The African National Congress has relearned with sadness and sense of enormous loss the passing of Edna Edith Bomo Molewa who was an NEC & NWC member as well as cabinet minister at the time of her passing,” the statement says.
“This sense of loss is beyond comprehension,” it continues.
“Her passing on has left the ANC and the country poorer given her role in advancing the country’s transformation agenda. She has been and will always remain a symbol of rare social and political activist who rose in the ranks democracy since her involvement in the trade unions before joining the North West provincial government as MEC in various departments, [later becoming] a premier of the province,” said the statement, sent by ANC spokesperson Pule Mabe.
“Her role was noticeable and she was affirmed as a leader of the ANC NEC, NWC and a cabinet minister in various departments. Our history as a country will not be complete without acknowledging the pivotal role that individuals like her played in enhancing the impact of the collective effort to make South Africa a better place.”
“To her family, we want to thank them for having available to the country and our people a true revolutionary who knew no other life than that of servitude and commitment to our people. We share in your loss and grief. May her soul rest deservedly in peace,” the statement concluded.
Molewa was hospitalised on September 8‚ and tourism minister Derek Hanekom has been acting in her role since then.
Aged 61‚ Molewa was a member of the ANC’s national executive committee (NEC) as well as the ANC Women's League national working committee.
On 30 April 2004 she became the first female premier of the North West provincial government‚ a post she filled until 2009.
Molewa was also the first and remains the only female to ever become the provincial chairperson of the ANC and in 1994 she became the first female to be chairperson of the portfolio committee on trade and industry.
Before being appointed minister of water and environmental affairs in 2010‚ among other government accolades she served as MEC for social development.
At national government level‚ Molewa briefly served as minister of social development in 2009‚ but in 2010 became the minister of water and environmental affairs after a cabinet reshuffle‚ replacing Buyelwa Sonjica.
Four years ago the department was split and Molewa became minister of the new department of environmental affairs‚ a position she held until her death.
It was under her stewardship of the environmental affairs department that the historic Paris Agreement to combat climate change was signed at the United Nations in April 2016‚ a global feat that she was credited as playing a large part in.
For this‚ she was in July awarded one of France’s top honours‚ the Officier de ’Ordre National de la Légion d’Honneur (an Officer in the French Legion of Honour). The honour celebrates accomplishments of distinguished individuals‚ irrespective of where they are from.