Pretoria - Higher Education Minister Dr Blade Nzimande has expressed his condolences to the family of Ndoni Mcunu, the founder of Black Women in Science (BWIS), who died on Saturday while on vacation at the Cradle of Humankind.
Family spokesperson Nobuntu Hlazo-Webster said the family is waiting for the post-mortem results and for police to conclude their investigations.
The death of the 33-year-old who was pursuing her PhD in climate change and agriculture at the Global Change Institute at Wits has come as a shock to friends and family.
“Ndoni Mcunu passed away while on vacation at the Cradle of Humankind with friends. Police who notified the family of the death cited a gas leak at the accommodation venue as the probable cause of death,” said Hlazo-Webster in a statement on Monday.
At the time of her death, Mcunu had been pursuing her PhD which had a focus on climate change and food system policy.
Nzimande said Mcunu was a beacon of hope.
“South Africa has not only lost a beacon of hope for the value of science in society, but an environmentalist who advocated for building capacity and networks for black women scientists and researchers in Africa.
“With over 10 years experience, her work in climate change advocacy and leadership in the development of women, will live on eternally,” said Nzimande.
The minister added that her passing was even more sad as KwaZulu-Natal is facing a state of disaster after torrential rains devastated the province, in what could be the result of climate change.
“It is now more than ever urgent for policy-makers and researchers in Africa to heed Mcunu’s calls on how to deal with extreme weather events in Africa,” he said.
In 2022, Mcunu co-authored the Greenpeace International and Greenpeace Africa report on extreme weather events and climate change in Africa.