Pretoria - The late environmental affairs minister Edna Molewa was a woman of courage and widely respected on the world stage for her massive contribution to the global fight against climate change, President Cyril Ramaphosa said on Saturday.
"We have lost a leader who was widely respected on the world stage, due in large part to her role in the global effort to combat climate change. It was under her leadership that South Africa formulated its first national climate change response policy and national adaption strategy," Ramaphosa told mourners at Molewa's official funeral in Pretoria.
"Our robust response to the threat of climate change had its genesis at the COP17 summit in Durban in 2011. As leader of the South African negotiating delegation, minister Molewa threw herself into an intense period of international diplomacy," he said
The COP17 conference had laid the groundwork for the historic climate change Paris Agreement in 2015, which Molewa worked at tirelessly to ensure it was concluded and ratified.
"South Africa and the international community has lost a true champion of the cause of environmental justice and sustainability as a foundation for equitable socio-economic development. Dr Molewa provided leadership on the whole spectrum of issues in the environmental sector; from green economy, to biodiversity conservation, to wildlife management and protection," said Ramaphosa.
"It pained her that the ocean’s health was being threatened by degradation, over-fishing, oil and plastic pollution. As part of the global effort to strike a balance between economic development and ocean health she was at the time of her passing preparing to launch a source to sea initiative, a national and international movement to address the sources of marine and river pollution at source, to restore our water systems to good health, and to eradicate pollution," he said.
Molewa had been passionate about enhancing South Africa's role in oceans research, especially in Antarctica and the Southern Ocean Islands.
"She believed that African nations must first understand the oceans and their mysteries if they are to benefit from the opportunities they offer. She launched the first of a series of multinational Indian Ocean research cruises on our polar supply vessel Miriam Makeba, staffed by young scientists from the Indian Ocean Rim Association countries," he said.
"She had invited me to travel on one of these research cruises to Antarctica, an invitation which I still hope to honour. Dr Molewa was clear that the environmental portfolio in government was so much more than a regulatory function; but a real catalyst for economic transformation."
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