South Africa started the long weekend leading to Heritage Day celebrations on a sad note following the passing of Environmental Affairs Minister Edna Molewa.
She passed away on Saturday at a Pretoria hospital after having complications of Legionnaires’ disease. The Minister was 61 years old.
Legionnaires' disease is a severe, often lethal, form of pneumonia.
After announcing her passing, President Cyril Ramaphosa declared a period of mourning with immediate effect and ordered that the National Flag be flown at half-mast at all flag stations countrywide and at South African diplomatic missions abroad.
He has also declared an Official Funeral (category 1) for the late Minister Molewa.
Official Funeral Category 1 is for Serving Ministers, Speaker of the National Assembly, Chief Justice of the Republic of South Africa, Chairperson of the National Council of Provinces (NCOP) and Premiers among others.
According to the Department of Environmental Affairs, Minister Molewa will be honoured with an Official Memorial Service on Wednesday in Pretoria.
“The venue for the Memorial Service will be communicated in due course. The ceremony will be open to the members of the public,” the department said.
The funeral service will take place on Saturday in Pretoria, at a venue to be confirmed.
Mourners can attend the daily evening prayer services which will be held at the Molewa residence at 7pm.
Paying tribute to the late Minister, President Ramaphosa referred to her as an extraordinary leader of the people.
He said her passing is a devastating loss to the nation and to the global community who owe a great debt of gratitude to the late Minister Molewa for her championship nationally and globally for the environmental integrity of a sustainable planet Earth.
Minister Molewa served the South African government in many portfolios. She distinguished herself in many fields, and had most recently been bestowed with the Officier de l’Ordre National de la Légion d’Honneur (or Officer in the French Legion of Honour) by the French Government.
The Legion of Honour celebrated Minister Molewa’s commitment to South Africa, the struggle for freedom and democracy, women’s rights and the fight against climate change.
The President has offered his condolences to the family, colleagues in Cabinet and public servants across all spheres of government who have had the privilege to work alongside the late Minister.
“We shall miss her greatly,” the President said.
Speaking on behalf of the Molewa family, the Minister’s brother Fana Mmethi said the family appreciates messages of support and tributes from South Africans and people from across the globe.
“It is particularly difficult to come to terms with her passing, given that she was cut down in the prime of her life when she still had so much to offer to her family, her friends, her colleagues, her church, and to her community,” said Mmethi.
A condolence book has been placed at the Molewa family residence, and more condolence books will also be placed at the Union Buildings, Department of Environmental Affairs Offices in Pretoria and Cape Town, Sefako Makgatho University, Vaal University of Technology, South African National Parks, South African National Biodiversity Institute and South African Weather Service for the members of the public to express their messages of support to the family.