The late minister of environmental affairs, Edna Molewa, led a gallant effort against reducing the number of rhino killings in the country, and played a crucial role in enforcing protocols to help fight the battle.
This is what the chief executive of the South African National Parks, Fundisile Mketeni, said on Thursday at a memorial service held in honour of Molewa.
She died on Saturday after succumbing to pneumonia upon her return from a recent trip to China.
The department of environmental affairs hosted the memorial service in Pretoria for its staff and various stakeholders.
An official state funeral was set to take place on October 6.
“I worked with [the] minister before joining SANParks. Perhaps I joined SANParks because of her leadership,” Mketeni said.
South African Weather Service board chairperson Nana Magomola said that Molewa had understood that she had a “unique purpose” in life, and that she “continued to lead a life of purpose”.
“She was a very hands-on person and she never missed anything. Today, yes we are mourning her, but it is again the day we should really celebrate her. We celebrate a life well-lived,” Magomola said.
Magomola said that she would receive phone calls from Molewa at 3am, after having spoken to one another at 9pm the night before, adding that she did not keep track of time when it came to her commitment to her work.
Director-general of environmental affairs, Nosipho Ngcaba also shared how driven Molewa was and how she loved her intellect.
“I think most of you may not quite understand how I was relating to [the] minister, but I had more laughter when I was with [the] minister. We would work hard, push each other, she would push, and I would say, ‘Please minister can we do this tomorrow?’ I would negotiate my way through her, and there are a few things that I liked specifically about her. Beyond her beauty, I loved her intellect,” Ngcaba said.
When the news of Molewa’s death was announced on Saturday, President Cyril Ramaphosa said that “we have lost one of the most outstanding daughters of our country”.
Molewa, who assumed the position of environmental minister in 2010 when the department was still part of water affairs and sanitation, spearheaded campaigns to reduce the number of rhinos poached in the country, and championed the fight against climate change.
Molewa had been in Beijing delivering the annual climate lecture at the Institute of Climate Change and Sustainable Development at Tsinghua University a week before she fell ill.
She was 61.