A Tribute to Minister Edna Molewa, by Dire Tladi

On 22 September 2018, the world lost an environmental stalwart, Bomo Edna Edith Molewa, the South African Minister of Environmental Affairs.

Edna Molewa

Minister Molewa served in the Government of the Republic of South Africa in various capacities, including as member of parliament, member of the executive council of the North West Province and the Premier of the North West province.  It was in her role as Minister of Environmental Affairs that she served, not only South Africa but the world. She served as Minister of Environmental Affairs since 2010. 

During her eight years at the helm of the environment ministry, South Africa increasingly took on a leadership role in global environmental affairs.  South Africa hosted two major environmental conferences. The 17th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change held in Durban in 2011 laid the groundwork for what became the Paris Agreement.  It was similarly under Minister’s Molewa leadership that South Africa, as chair of the G77, engendered a paradigm shift from the mitigation-centric approach to a holistic and comprehensive approach in order to meaningfully address climate change.

It was also during Minister Molewa’s tenure as environment minister that South Africa hosted the 17th Conference of the Parties to the Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species of Fauna and Flora in 2016 in Johannesburg. 

It is impossible to capture all of Minister Molewa’s contributions to protecting the environment for the benefit of future generations, but her tireless and passionate effort for the global environment was recognised worldwide.  In July of this year, she was awarded the Ordre National de la Légion d’Honneur, France’s highest honour, for her dedication to the protection of the global environment, particularly for her climate change work.  In 2013, World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) bestowed on her its highest honour, Gift to the Earth.   

She will be remembered for her poise, charisma and steady leadership.


Dire Tladi Photo: Dire Tladi Dire Tladi

Professor of International Law
Department of Public Law and Institute for International and Comparative Law in Africa
University of Pretoria


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