Molewa served as North West premier from 2004 to 2009, before she was appointed social development minister. Molewa also served as water and environmental affairs minister from October 2010 to May 2014 after which she was Environmental Affairs Minister.
She fell ill while accompanying President Cyril Ramaphosa on a recent trip to Beijing and died at a Pretoria hospital on Saturday.
Mabuza said the country had lost a precious life. “She was a gallant fighter for our freedom. Sadly, as much as this day is fixed in the calendars, it is with particular angst that we commemorate this day as a nation in mourning. We have lost the precious life of Minister Edna Molewa.”
Mabuza described Molewa as an outstanding servant of the people.
“She possessed extraordinary skills as an organiser, a thinker, a strategist, a leader with the common touchgrounded in the plight of our people.”
At the weekend, Ramaphosa described Molewa as an extraordinary leader.
“This is a devastating loss to our nation and to the global community who owe a great gratitude to the late Minister Molewa for her championship nationally for the environmental integrity of a sustainable planet Earth that can be shared and enjoyed by all nations and all people, rich and poor.”
Parliament’s environmental affairs portfolio committee said Molewa had played a significant role in environmental affairs both internationally and domestically.
“She has also contributed immensely in ensuring that South Africa is on par with other nations on matters that affect the sustainable use of the environment,” said committee chairperson Philemon Mapulane.
The ANC Women’s League in North West yesterday paid tribute to Molewa.
“It is indeed a great loss to the women of the country and the government sphere that Edna Edith Molewa died at the age of 61 years, on September 22,” said ANCWL provincial secretary Bridgette Tlhomelang.
Opposition political parties and civil society organisations said Molewa was a climate change and environmental activist.