'She led from the front with passion' - colleagues pay tribute to Edna Molewa

An image of the late Edna Molewa displayed at her memorial service. (Sesona Ngqakamba, News24)
An image of the late Edna Molewa displayed at her memorial service. (Sesona Ngqakamba, News24)

Described as a mother figure to those who worked with her, former Environmental Affairs Minister Edna Molewa who died last week, received an emotional send off at a memorial service on Thursday.

Hundreds of friends, family members and colleagues gathered at the Christian Revival Church's auditorium in Silverlakes, Pretoria to honour Molewa.

She died at a Pretoria hospital on September 22 after a short illness. 

Among those who attended were Environmental Affairs Deputy Minister Barbara Thomson, director general Nosipho Gcaba, as well as dignitaries from Parliament and other government departments.

Former acting director general at the Department of Water Affairs Trevor Balzer, who worked with Molewa during her time as minister there, said her passing was difficult to comprehend and felt like a bad dream to many.

"She led from the front, with passion, which was difficult to describe… She was a workaholic of note and a great leader…," Balzer said.

Jokingly, Balzer added that Molewa had a speed which was faster than the Gautrain: "This is a moving train, a plane if you want… And we were making repairs and doing refurbishments while in motion."

"We used to work hard, and I mean hard. We used to work late, and I mean really late… Bringing the notion of burning the midnight oil...," Balzer.

However, he was quick to point out that Molewa never lost her motherly touch during those times.

South African National Parks (SANParks) CEO Fundisile Mketeni compared Molewa's death to losing a mother.

Many other representatives who worked with Molewa reiterated her caring nature.

"We as SA Weather Services have had many highlights that we can talk about under her guidance. Amongst some of them is that in 2010, SA celebrated 150 years of meteorology… In 2011, again under her leadership, [they] successfully hosted the United Nations framework convention on climate change," SA Weather Services chairperson Nana Magomola said.

"We celebrate a life well lived. She executed her duties…," Magomola said. 

She added that with all the work Molewa had done throughout her 61 years, it was almost like she knew she had limited time.

"I concur with those who say that she didn't know what time was. I don't even think she kept time… She will call you at three in the morning…," Magomola said.

Department of Environmental Affairs spokesperson Albi Modise said the department remained crushed by Molewa's death.

She was that type of minister who always believed that the environment was not just in existence for itself… that people needed to make sure that we conserve the environment for future generations."

Molewa's official memorial service is expected to take place in Pretoria on October 3.

Molewa's official funeral will take place on October 6.

The venues for both the memorial and funeral services are still to be confirmed.

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