Molewa, who served in the portfolio since 2014, championed the fight against the scourge of rhino poaching, among others.
It is sad that at a time when we begin to be cautiously optimistic that we are turning the tide against the scourge, we are robbed of a passionate individual. She worked tirelessly and even developed an emotional attachment to the wonderful work by the rangers in our national parks, especially in our neighbouring Kruger National Park, who sacrifice their lives patrolling and looking after our natural heritage for the benefit of the current and future generations.
Besides working with her as a comrade in the ANC, I am consoled by the fact that I have been able to work closely with her in government, more especially since I joined the Department of Agriculture, Rural Development, Land and Environmental Affairs as an MEC in August 2016. We would meet constantly during her meetings with provincial MECs of environmental affairs, called MINMEC, which she steered. I would listen to her as she spoke passionately, especially on current government programmes and future plans in addressing environmental issues.
Having her in the portfolio was not a mistake. She fit in like a hand in a glove. Molewa was passionate about the environment. She was clued up and well articulated on what direction government needed to take in dealing with rhino poaching, air quality, mitigating the impact of climate change and the ocean’s economy.
This includes the work done by many government-supported programmes like Working for Water, Working on Fire, Working on Waste, Women in Environment etc, which plays a major role in, among others, the fight against high levels of unemployment among our youth. With the multifaceted intervention that we deployed especially in the fight against rhino poaching, which she initiated, we remain committed to ensuring that we triumph against the scourge.
Yes, the spear has fallen, it is now up to us to pick it up and soldier on. This, with an aim to continue in her path… protecting and taking care of the environment, which is taking care of us in return. This is what Molewa had advocated for, hence her recognition by international bodies for the role and dedication she displayed while championing environmental issues.
The family has lost a mother. South Africa has lost a giant; an environmental champion of note. Her passing is a great loss to the ANC, the National Executive Committee and the ANC Women’s League, including many other structures which she served. May her beautiful soul rest in eternal peace.
Mr VR Shongwe is the MEC for Agriculture, Rural Development, Land and Environmental Affairs in Mpumalanga.