Ndoni Mcunu, 33, got engaged over a year ago and was looking forward to her big day – but that never came to be after what is believed to be an accident cut her young life short.. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Mcunu, a renowned environmental scientist and founder of Black Women in Science (BWIS), died on Saturday while holidaying in the Cradle of Humankind, west of Johannesburg.She was with friends at the time, said her family in a statement.
Family spokesperson and close friend Nobuntu Hlazo-Webster said Mcunu’s family had been left devastated after receiving a call from the police that she had died following a gas leak in the accommodation where she and her friends were staying.
The family had suffered a significant loss, she said.Hlazo-Webster said Mcunu was planning to get married, adding that her sudden death has rocked her.Ndoni recently got engaged and was already planning a life with Phelani Mthembu. The news has been very hard on him and difficult at the same time.
“But what is one really to do in a situation like this? He is literally taking it one day and hour at a time,” said Hlazo-Webster.According to Hlazo-Webster, Mcunu was a powerhouse, a force to be reckoned with, adding:
Her drive and passion to contribute to something greater in this world was something Hlazo-Webster admired the most about Mcuni.She was unshakable and above all else she was a very humble in nature.The way she was so humble, it came as a shock to most people who saw her from a distance and didn’t know how determined she was in the things she did,” said Hlazo-Webster.
According to Mcunu’s LinkedIn profile she was a climate scientist and social entrepreneur.
She was also recognised as one of the 40 under-40 African Leaders for Climate Resilience in 2019 by Wilton Park, which is an executive agency of the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office, for her climate change and agriculture work. She has aslso been featured in international media such as BBC News and Nature Journal, which is a leading international scientific journal.
“She indeed was incredibly powerful, but very humble. I think now with her passing, as her family, friends and colleagues we get a sense of the impact of her work and a lot of us are realising just how much power she yielded in our country and the impact of her work as a whole,” said Hlazi-Webster.
She described her relationship with Mcunu that of a sister.
“I have always been her bigger sister. I mean she was the only girl amongst her two brothers and I was the only girl amongst my two brothers.
“One can only imagine the kind of bond and relationship we have formed over the years,” said Hlazi-Webster.
She said their bond had grown stronger when they both suffered great losses last year.
“We both lost our fathers last year. Her father passed on in May last year, while mine died in September last year.
‘I felt so defeated’
“And I think it was at that very moment our relationship deepened as we were trying to navigate through the loss of our fathers together.”
Hlazi-Webster explained to News24 how the news of her friend’s death had left a gaping hole in her heart, saying: