The leadership of the North West province has reacted in shock and sadness at the news of the passing of its first female premier Edna Molewa.
The presidency announced on Saturday that the environmental affairs minister died “after a period of illness”.
Current North West Premier Job Mokgoro, the province’s first premier Popo Molefe, a former colleague and Molewa’s former personal assistant have all described the news of her passing as sad and a “serious loss for South Africans”.
Molefe who had just landed in South Africa from a trip abroad told News24 he had just heard the news, which he said left him “mortified”.
“Edna is one of the few South Africans who was committed and hardworking, giving her all to the positions she was appointed to,” he said.
Molefe said after she assisted in campaigning ahead of the 1994 elections he approached the ANC in parliament where Molewa was deployed, asking that she be sent back to the North West to assist him there as an MEC.
“A responsibility she discharged with distinction,” recalled Molefe.
Molewa took over as premier of the platinum-rich province after Molefe, which he described as a logical move at the time.
“One conveys sincere condolences to her family and we only hope the family can muster sufficient strength and courage during their period of bereavement,” said Molefe.
Mokgoro in a statement said the news of Molewa’s passing was “truly a shock” and a loss to the province and country.
“We were still expecting a lot from her as someone who has continued to play a leading role in promoting environmental conservation as key to South Africa’s economic development,” said Mokgoro through a statement.
An emotional Losareng Moraladi, who struggled to speak of her former boss after the news, told News24 South Africa had lost an exceptional leader.
“I remember her as someone who wanted things in place, an organised person, a planner who also had the ability to accommodate people from all walks of life,” said Moraladi.
Moraladi who served as Molewa’s PA when she was an MEC and premier, often repeated the phrase “I am not okay,” as she spoke of the leader who always managed to ease tense situations.
Zacharia Tolo, who is one of the provincial task team members the ANC has just appointed to stabilise the North West spoke of the bond he shared with Molewa when the two served as young MECs following the first democratic elections.
“I was quite fortunate to work closely with her, we shared the difficult challenges of governance, we shared notes, shared our own experiences, held each other by the hand to ensure we make a success in achieving Nelson Mandela’s dream of a democratic South Africa,” he said.
He said she was proof that women made great leaders.
“I must say she showed very strong character and the legacy she has left is one that says women can lead, she was part of the establishment of the North West province as it is today,” he said.
“We can’t fault comrade Edna with anything, she has served with her all in the positions she was deployed in by her movement the ANC,” he said.