Minister Molewa was known for her dedicated political activism. She began challenging apartheid in the ranks of the civics and trade union movement as well as the ANC’s liberation army Umkhonto we Sizwe. She was targeted by the repressive state apparatus and detained several times. In the 1980’s she held a number of senior positions within South Africa’s trade union movement, including as second Deputy President of the union CCAWUSA, and later the first Deputy President of SACCAWU – one of the country’s largest trade unions. She was also one of the founding members of the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU).
She was the first woman to be elected as Provincial Chairperson of the ANC, in the North West Province, going on to be appointed the first woman Premier of the Province in 2004. She was amongst the first group of Parliamentarians in the new democratic parliament in 1994, and made history by becoming the first female chairperson of the Portfolio Committee on Trade and Industry.
Her skills as a negotiator and arbitrator saw her appointed to the Board of the National Labour Economic Institute, an organization that played a formative role in the development of the new South Africa’s economic policies. Her highly esteemed work in environmental conservation began when she headed the Department of Environment and Tourism in the North West Province in 1996, followed by the Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Environment in 2000.
SALO fondly remembers Minister Molewa for her role as chairperson of the ANC’s International Relations Subcommittee. In this capacity and others, she has truly served South Africa and the international community with dignity and diligence. SALO also greatly appreciates the important role she played in the negotiations that led to the adoption of the historic Paris Agreement to combat climate change, which was signed at the United Nations in April 2016. She played an active role in championing environmental issues on both the domestic and international stage. Her passing is not a loss for just South Africa, but the world.
We will truly miss working with Minister Molewa, and wish her family strength during this difficult time.