Edna Molewa

Dr Bomo Edith Edna Molewa was born in the Bela-Bela in Limpopo Province in South Africa.

She completed her high school education and teacher’s training at the famed Hebron Training College – an institution that has produced many luminaries and successful alumni who have gone on to positions of leadership in South Africa and abroad.

A senior political figure in South Africa’s governing party the African National Congress (ANC), she currently serves on the organization’s highest decision-making body, the National Executive Committee (NEC) and National Working Committee (NWC). She is also the chairperson of the ANC’s International Relations Subcommittee.

Her political activism under apartheid began 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 career 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.

During her tenure in the province she played a leading role in elevating the provincial and national profile of this important field, and promoting its role in the country’s economic development.

She was appointed to Cabinet as Minister of Social Development in 2009, and in 2010 as Minister of Water and Environmental Affairs.

During her tenure as Minister of Water Affairs she facilitated investments into massive water projects in South Africa. She also served on the World Water Council of the WEF. 

In 2014 she was appointed Minister of Environmental Affairs after the water and environmental ministries were split, a position she currently holds.

She currently also chairs the South African Cabinet’s International Cooperation, Trade and Security Cluster (ICTS).

As Minister of Environmental Affairs she enjoys a high profile nationally and globally.

She has headed the South African delegation to a number international negotiations in various fields, including the fields like Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), sustainable development, which culminated into the adoption of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), the World Heritage Committee(WHC) and the international climate change negotiations in Mexico in 2010, then Durban in 2011- leading up to the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris in December 2015.

She is widely recognized as having played a leading role in the negotiations that led to the adoption of the historic Paris Agreement to combat climate change; that was signed at the United Nations in April 2016.

She is a respected leader on the African continent in a number of areas relating to water security, the environment and the global sustainable development agenda, and has served as President of the African Ministers Council on the Environment (AMCEN) and two terms as President of the African Ministers Council on Water (AMCOW).

She is the current chair of the Abidjan Convention that consists of 38 countries of the continent and coordinates management of the Indian Ocean space.

In addition, she is a regular country participant in the World Economic Forum (WEF) and leads discussions on matters of sustainability, water and climate change.

A longstanding gender activist she currently serves on the National Executive Committee (NEC) and National Working Committee (NWC) of the ANC Women’s League.

She has a number of academic, leadership and management qualifications including from the Harvard Kennedy School of Government and the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, and is currently studying towards a Bachelor of Arts Honors in Development Studies from the University of South Africa (UNISA).

In 2016 she was awarded an Honorary Doctorate in Applied Sciences from the Vaal University of Technology (VUT).

On the 17th of March 2017 she was installed as Chancellor of the Sefako Makgatho Health Sciences University (SMHSU), the first institution of its kind in post-apartheid South Africa.