Edna Molewa was a champion of the environment, says Ramaphosa

The president is due to visit the Molewa family sometime on Saturday.

Minister of Environmental Affairs Edna Molewa attends a press conference at the COP22 climate conference on 17 November 2016 in Marrakesh. Picture: AFP

JOHANNESBURG - President Cyril Ramaphosa has described the passing of Environmental Affairs Minister Edna Molewa as a devastating loss.

Molewa died at the age of 61.

It’s understood that she had fallen ill during her official visit to the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation Summit held in China and passed on at a hospital in Pretoria.

Ramaphosa is due to visit the Molewa family sometime on Saturday.

He's expressed his condolences to the family and says Molewa was known as a champion of the environment.

The president has also thanked Molewa for her contribution to the country's fight for liberation.

Presidential spokesperson Khusela Diko says that Ramaphosa has ordered a period of national mourning with immediate effect and directed that all flags be flown at half-mast at all government buildings, as well as the South African missions abroad.

At the same time, while celebrating World Rhino Day on Saturday, the CEO of World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) Dr Morné du Plessis says they are shocked by Molewa's sudden passing.

“She was very devoted to her portfolio, it’s probably an area of work that she arrived at quite late in her life. But, when she was made Minister of Environment Affairs she took it so seriously.”

The Presidency says details of the funeral arrangements for Molewa will be announced soon.

Diko said: “All details of commemorative events in honour of Minister Molewa will be announced in due course, but being a serving cabinet minister she will be honoured with an official funeral as per the state policy on funerals.”

(Edited by Thapelo Lekabe)