The late minister of environmental affairs Edna Molewa's official state funeral was held at the Tshwane Events Centre, west of Pretoria on Saturday. Photo: GCIS

Pretoria - President Cyril Ramaphosa on Saturday paid tribute to late environmental affairs minister Edna Molewa for her numerous efforts in combating poaching and the preservation of South Africa's natural resources.

"She was a daughter of the South African soil with a deep love for nature, for her country, and for the African region. She led from the front and could often be found out in the field herself in the trademark SANParks [South African National Parks] ranger uniform," Ramaphosa said in his eulogy at Molewa's official funeral in Pretoria.

"She had a soft spot for the rangers in our national parks and gave them her firm support as they confronted ever more complex and ever more dangerous tasks. She pushed for the roll-out of a range of environmental programmes that offered work opportunities, skills development, and training to thousands of young South Africans across a range of fields, from natural resource management, to fire suppression, to rhino conservation, to waste management, to eco-furniture production."

Ramaphosa said Molewa was "always a champion of women’s issues", and it was important to note that no other country had a wildfire fighting capacity with more than 10 percent of firefighters being women.

"Today, nearly a third of South African wildland firefighters are women and we are determined to grow this further in honour of her memory. Minister Molewa will be forever remembered by South Africans for her efforts to conserve the country’s wildlife, in particular, our rhino," said Ramaphosa.

"She had promised us that rhino would not go extinct on her watch, and this has been proven to be both prescient and true. And yet, while we should welcome the fact that rhino poaching figures are on the decline, we know that there is yet much more to be done."

Ramaphosa said the fight against poaching was not over and those who remained had to take it up with as much determination and passion as "our dear sister" Molewa did.

"In the last days of her life, Dr Molewa and her department were in liaison with my office to launch a landmark campaign to mobilise all South Africans to become environmentally conscious. The #Thuma Mina Good Green Deeds programme is aimed at changing behaviour towards littering, towards illegal dumping, and towards waste in general.

"We will launch this campaign in her honour and spread her message to all South Africans that it is the responsibility of each of us to keep our communities clean," he said.

Molewa's official state funeral was held at the Tshwane Events Centre, west of Pretoria. The sombre event was attended by, among others, foreign dignitaries, cabinet ministers, and former South African presidents Thabo Mbeki, Jacob Zuma, and Kgalema Motlanthe. Molewa, 61, died in a Pretoria hospital after a short illness late last month.

African News Agency (ANA)