Sunday Times

Edna Molewa: Min­is­ter who com­bined con­ser­va­tion and de­vel­op­ment 1957-2018

Con­tro­ver­sial but com­pe­tent, her in­cor­rupt­ibil­ity may have led to a cabinet reshuf­fle

- South Africa Politics · South Africa News · Politics · African Politics · Pretoria · Jacob Zuma · the French government · American Legion · Paris · organization · African National Congress · Nomvula Mokonyane · China · Cyril Ramaphosa · Edna Molewa · Legion of Honour · Legion of Honour · Derek Hanekom · South African National Biodiversity Institute · Bela Bela · Hebron, IL · South African Commercial, Catering and Allied Workers Union

● Edna Molewa, who has died in Pre­to­ria at the age of 61, was in charge of two crit­i­cally im­por­tant gov­ern­ment port­fo­lios for eight years, first as min­is­ter of wa­ter af­fairs & the en­vi­ron­ment, then as min­is­ter of the en­vi­ron­ment.

Al­though she made enor­mously con­tro­ver­sial de­ci­sions with­out ad­e­quate consultati­on and was ac­cused of putting com­mer­cial in­ter­ests above those of the en­vi­ron­ment and con­ser­va­tion, she had a rep­u­ta­tion for be­ing one of the more com­pe­tent and least cor­rupt­ible mem­bers of for­mer pres­i­dent Ja­cob Zuma’s cabinet.

In July this year the French gov­ern­ment awarded her the Le­gion of Hon­our for her role in the 2015 Paris cli­mate change agree­ment, in spite of the fact that af­ter it was signed she down­played con­cerns about the threat of cli­mate change and the need for greater re­liance on re­new­able en­ergy.

In Fe­bru­ary this year en­vi­ron­men­tal or­gan­i­sa­tions ac­cused her of cyn­i­cally us­ing the out­dated in­te­grated re­source plan (IRP) 2010, be­fore the new one could be fi­nalised, to jus­tify au­tho­ris­ing a new coal-fired power sta­tion in Lim­popo.

This was af­ter a coali­tion of en­vi­ron­men­tal or­gan­i­sa­tions took her to the Pre­to­ria high court, which or­dered her to con­sider a cli­mate im­pact-as­sess­ment re­port first.

Hav­ing done so she said con­sid­er­a­tions of the harm that would re­sult from new coal-fired fa­cil­i­ties were out­weighed by the ben­e­fit to the coun­try of hav­ing old-en­ergy gen­er­a­tion ca­pac­ity.

“While the en­vi­ron­men­tal and so­cial costs as­so­ci­ated with the pro­posed power sta­tion are high, this does not nec­es­sar­ily rep­re­sent a fa­tal flaw,” she said.

She was crit­i­cised for her man­age­ment of wet­lands and fail­ure to do more to pro­tect them from the im­pact of min­ing.

Her de­part­ment was fre­quently crit­i­cised for fail­ing to re­spect due process when mak­ing reg­u­la­tions and is­su­ing procla­ma­tions.

She was crit­i­cised for not re­leas­ing quar­terly re­ports on rhino poach­ing or the ar­rest of sus­pected poach­ers, de­spite re­peated as­sur­ances that she would.

Last year she an­nounced a 10% de­crease in the num­ber of rhi­nos killed in SA for their horn, due partly to a mo­bile radar sys­tem used to de­tect poach­ing ac­tiv­ity.

But she ig­nored the find­ings of en­vi­ron­men­tal or­gan­i­sa­tions and com­pli­ance with the CITES treaty when she over­turned a gov­ern­ment ban on rhino horn trade, al­low­ing pri­vate rhino breed­ers to sell their stock­piles un­der cer­tain con­di­tions ex­perts said her de­part­ment lacked the ca­pac­ity to mon­i­tor.

In 2017 she ap­proved a yearly ex­port quota of 800 lion skele­tons from the cap­tive-bred lion in­dus­try while it was sup­pos­edly still un­der sci­en­tific scru­tiny, spark­ing crit­i­cism by lo­cal and in­ter­na­tional con­ser­va­tion­ists, sci­en­tists, an­i­mal wel­fare or­gan­i­sa­tions and the pub­lic, all of whom com­plained that they hadn’t been ad­e­quately con­sulted.

The in­ter­na­tional out­cry dam­aged SA’s tourism in­dus­try, which, al­though mourn­ing her death, re­acted pos­i­tively to tourism min­is­ter Derek Hanekom’s ap­point­ment as act­ing min­is­ter in her place.

De­spite the con­tro­versy, Molewa nearly dou­bled the lion bone ex­port quota in July this year while the South African Na­tional Bio­di­ver­sity In­sti­tute’s three-year re­search project, started in 2017, was still un­der way. Re­searchers in­volved in the project dis­tanced them­selves from the de­ci­sion.

Born Bomo Edith Edna Molewa on March 23 1957 in Bela-Bela in Lim­popo, she com­pleted her high school ed­u­ca­tion and teacher’s train­ing at He­bron Train­ing Col­lege and taught for five years while also serv­ing in the un­der­ground struc­tures of the lib­er­a­tion move­ment.

In the 1980s she be­came ac­tive in the civic and trade union move­ment and be­came deputy pres­i­dent of the South African Com­mer­cial, Cater­ing and Al­lied Work­ers Union when it was one of the coun­try’s largest unions.

She was de­tained sev­eral times.

She went to par­lia­ment in 1994 and was the first fe­male chair of the port­fo­lio com­mit­tee on trade and in­dus­try.

She was the first woman pro­vin­cial chair of the ANC in the North West and in 2004 its first woman premier.

She was a mem­ber of the ANC’s na­tional ex­ec­u­tive and na­tional work­ing com­mit­tee, and chaired its in­ter­na­tional re­la­tions sub­com­mit­tee.

Her ca­reer in en­vi­ron­men­tal con­ser­va­tion be­gan when she headed the de­part­ment of en­vi­ron­ment and tourism in the North West in 1996, fol­lowed by the de­part­ment of agri­cul­ture, con­ser­va­tion & en­vi­ron­ment in 2000.

She be­came min­is­ter of so­cial de­vel­op­ment in 2009, and min­is­ter of wa­ter & en­vi­ron­men­tal af­fairs in Zuma's cabinet in 2010.

In 2013 she launched the coun­try’s sec­ond na­tional wa­ter re­sources strat­egy, which was crit­i­cised for sac­ri­fic­ing re­al­ity to ide­ol­ogy, though it em­pha­sised that wa­ter se­cu­rity, qual­ity and man­age­ment had to be re­solved ur­gently.

In 2014, af­ter warn­ing that R293bn needed to be spent on in­fra­struc­ture over the next five years, 100 times more than was be­ing spent at the time, to avert a wa­ter crisis, she lost wa­ter af­fairs to Nomvula Mokonyane, with some spec­u­lat­ing that her in­cor­rupt­ibil­ity stood in the way of pres­i­den­tial plans.

In 2017 Molewa op­posed a mo­tion of no con­fi­dence in Zuma, cit­ing party loy­alty as her rea­son.

“Never, ever in my life will I vote with the op­po­si­tion,” she said.

Molewa died sud­denly af­ter re­turn­ing from a visit to China as part of a gov­ern­ment del­e­ga­tion led by Pres­i­dent Cyril Ramaphosa. Ac­cord­ing to her fam­ily she died from Le­gion­naires’ dis­ease.

She is sur­vived by four chil­dren.

Never, ever in my life will I vote with the op­po­si­tion Edna Molewa

 ?? Pic­ture: Gallo Im­ages /Foto24 /Cor­nel van Heer­den ?? Edna Molewa helps SANParks staff se­date a rhino in the Kruger Na­tional Park as part of a 2014 re­lo­ca­tion ef­fort against poach­ing.
Pic­ture: Gallo Im­ages /Foto24 /Cor­nel van Heer­den Edna Molewa helps SANParks staff se­date a rhino in the Kruger Na­tional Park as part of a 2014 re­lo­ca­tion ef­fort against poach­ing.

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