Environmental Affairs Minister Edna Molewa has died at age 61 at a Pretoria hospital on Saturday, according to a statement by the presidency.
In the statement, President Cyril Ramaphosa said Molewa’s passing is a “devastating loss to our nation and to the global community who owe a great debt of gratitude to the late Minister Molewa for her championship nationally and globally for the environmental integrity of a sustainable planet Earth.”
Ramaphosa described Molewa as having contributed to “liberation” by “fighting for the equality of women in our society”.
The president has declared a mourning period with immediate effect and has ordered that the national flag be flown at half mast at all “flag stations” across the country and at “South African diplomatic missions abroad.” He is also expected to visit the family during the course of the day.
The ANC also issued a statement saying this loss is “beyond comprehension” and that Molewa’s passing has left the party and the “country poorer given her role in advancing the country’s transformation agenda.”
Molewa was part of a delegation of ministers that accompanied Ramaphosa to China on a state visit at the beginning of September. According to eNCA, she was believed to have fallen ill during this visit.
Molewa was a member of both the ANC’s national executive committee and national working committee. She was the first woman premier of the North West in 2004, a position she held until 2009. She also briefly served as social development minister before her current role.