Maathai a true African patriot: Govt

2011-09-26 19:04

Johannesburg - Kenyan Nobel Laureate Wangari Maathai was an inspiration and a true African patriot, the South African government said on Monday.

"We are saddened by her death, but we are grateful for the contribution she made during her lifetime towards improving the living conditions of the African people," International Relations Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane said in a statement.

Maathai died in Nairobi on Sunday, aged 71, after battling lung cancer.

She was the first woman in east and central Africa to obtain a doctorate (in anatomy) and the first African woman to win the Nobel Peace Prize.

While serving on the National Council of Women of Kenya in 1976, she introduced the idea of women planting trees to reduce poverty and conserve the environment. The Green Belt Movement she helped to found helped women plant more than 40 million trees across the continent.

"Our thoughts and prayers are with the Kenyan people, particularly the family of Prof Maathai, at this time of mourning the loss of an exceptional lady," said Nkoana-Mashabane.


The World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) expressed sadness at the news that "one of nature's greatest ambassadors and defenders" had died.

"Wangari Maathai was a great inspiration for many of us at WWF," director general James Leape said in a statement.

"Her death is a great loss not only for the African, but also global, environmental movement."

When Maathai was assistant environment minister in Kenya, she worked with the WWF to advocate the sustainable use of natural resources. She was at the forefront of the conservation and protection of forests and water in Kenya, said Leape.

"As the world mourns Prof Maathai, WWF takes this moment to celebrate her achievements and contribution to the well-being of the environment, and indeed mankind.

Earlier, Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu, in a tribute to the conservationist and human rights activist, said Maathai understood and acted on the "inextricable link" between poverty, rights and environmental sustainability.

"One can but marvel at her foresight and the scope of her success. She was a true African heroine," he said.

Tutu sent his condolences to Maathai's family and the people of Kenya.

The Nelson Mandela Foundation said Maathai left a lasting legacy in raising environmental awareness.

"She has left a lasting legacy in greater awareness and work in protecting our environment and the world," foundation CEO Achmat Dangor said.

Maathai delivered the annual Nelson Mandela lecture in 2005.

  • Chabi - 2011-09-26 19:42

    Nature shall never be the same... rest peacefully Madam Mathaai.

  • Kgomotso - 2011-09-26 19:55

    May the daughter of the soil of Kenya rest in peace will salute and marvel in her contribution to humanity and science.

      AfroMaleGp - 2011-09-28 08:46

      I hope African women(esp in South Africa) carry on the baton and follow on her footsteps.

  • Thandi - 2011-09-26 20:10

    You were a WONDERFUL person. Will miss you. Wished we in South Africa could have seen and heard more of you. I wish those "FROT",useless, lazy South Africans would take a leaf out of your book and help one another get this country right. Why cant we be more patriotic (love OUR country). We should be wanting to improve this beautiful country, instead there is this "can't be bothered" attitude, "lets distroy everything". Look what happens during strikes and what the ANCYL are doing to our country.I hope all South Africans will learn from what Wanari Maathai has ment to us and how she will be missed.

      werna - 2011-09-26 21:37

      Thandi, I salute you. I wish we had more people like you in this beautiful country of us. Remember: You can make a difference.

  • Currie_Mafia - 2011-09-27 14:12

    I heard her comments about Africa & its leaders...What a great person. RIP.

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