ON THE OCCASION OF THE KWAZULU
I am delighted to come home to Ulundi to address a gathering of such talented and inspiring young people. I wish to thank the Chief Executive Officer of the Department of Education of our Province for extending an invitation to me. Today, I am truly seeing my vision translated into reality. It is wonderful to see that the Government of KwaZulu Natal remains as committed to education as it has always been. I believe this Province is the champion of education. In the years to come, we will see the fruit of every effort we have made to empower our children to become capable leaders, businessmen, conservationists, entrepreneurs, agriculturalists and skilled artisans, etc. Indeed, I trust that if our commitment continues, a generation of educated young people is going to carry this Province forward to stability, prosperity and peace.
When I am here in Ulundi, I cannot help remembering all the things that I did as Head of the erstwhile KwaZulu Government and the long road to the revival of our culture I have walked in my life. I remember that it was in the early 70's that we launched the Bureau for Zulu Language and Culture at the Eshowe Museum. I remember that I sat up until late the previous night with the former Director-General, Professor OEHM Nxumalo, who as I drafted each page of my address for the following day, would type it for me. Those were the days when we had no computers, only typewriters.
It was necessary to rehabilitate our psyche which was damaged when we were vanquished through war. At the same time as our psyche was being trampled by the conquerors, which damaged our culture and our norms as a people, something else happened to us as a people. The good thing that happened in the 19th century was the introduction of the Christian Gospel to our people. Today most of us are Christians because we accepted the good news of our salvation which the first missionaries brought to the Kingdom of KwaZulu. One of the Lord's servants who brought the gospel amongst the Zulu people was Bishop John Colenso who was given the name of Sobantu by the Zulu people. I always say that he was sent by God to the Zulu people at the right time. He became not only a good shepherd which he was as a Bishop, but he suffered and was finally declared a heretic, even by the Church because of his commitment to the Zulu cause when British forces were sent to the Kingdom to destroy the Zulu Nation.
One representative of the Zulu empire, Sir Bartle Frere, stated openly that "Zulu power must be broken once and for all." In all the sufferings, my maternal great-grandfather, King Cetshwayo, became Bishop Colenso's best friend and champion. His two daughters carried on his work even after the Bishop had passed away. I mention Bishop Colenso for I do believe that the reason why our people did not become anti-white during that time of conquest, was because the Bishop and his family demonstrated through everything they did for the Zulu cause, that not all whites were bad people.
However, the real point I wanted to make is that while proselytising our people to become Christians was in fact a good thing, it also came with a price as far as our culture was concerned. All our cultural norms were condemned by most missionaries as pagan habits and our people were encouraged to discard our culture. Bishop Colenso was in many ways not the same as other missionaries as he never condemned all our cultural norms and customs as things that one had to discard if one became a Christian.
In 1970 when I became the Head of a KwaZulu Government structure, I felt that I could not succeed in re-uniting and re-building the Zulu Nation after it was dismembered after the Anglo-Zulu war, unless I restored its pride. That was the reason why we launched the Bureau for the Zulu Language and Culture. When we were doing our primary and post primary education, we were not supposed to speak Zulu to each other during school hours. The motive for doing so was to make us proficient in English which we were then just learning to read, write and speak. There were other students who were appointed as "monitors" who used to "mark" us, as it was put. You could actually be punished if you slipped up and spoke in Zulu. The motive for doing this was not bad because unless you speak a language you cannot say you really know a language. But you can see that for us as children it seemed as if speaking Zulu was frowned upon.
Then let me tell you another experience which I had in 1954. In 1953, I was installed as Inkosi of the Buthelezi Clan which was done with the authority of Pretoria. I had been expelled from Fort Hare University, because I was involved in incidents surrounding a visit to the University of the then Governor-General of South Africa. Because of that involvement, I was rusticated from the University, together with two of my close friends, Mr Rosette Ndziba and Lengolo. Pretoria then decided that I should only be appointed as Acting Inkosi because of my rustication, even though my position as Inkosi was hereditary. But in spite of that, my paternal uncle, who had been Regent, decided in July 1954 to instal me according to custom. I was taken to the cattle byre with all the regiments of my people and my family. Before this ceremony took place some of my Indunas in Johannesburg prepared some traditional attire and other accoutrements which I wore on that day. Just because I wore my traditional garb, some members of my congregation at St Mary's Church where I worship, confronted my rector and priest, Canon Peter Biyela. They felt that I should be ex-communicated as they could not take communion with me after I had been taken through that traditional installation ceremony wearing traditional dress. Canon Biyela happened to be a well-educated theologian, with a Licentiate in Theology and he dismissed these complaints.
That very year, in my capacity as the Traditional Prime Minister, I had to handle preparations for the unveiling of King Shaka's monument at KwaDukuza. The King, the late King Bhekuzulu Nyangayezizwe Cyprian, the father of the present King, gave me orders to take charge of announcements and other arrangements. I announced among other things that on the first day of the unveiling of the monument there would be a religious ceremony, and on the second day we must all wear our traditional dress. Even the King, who did not have such traditional accoutrements, asked me to get him these. I then asked my Indunas in Johannesburg to prepare them for the King, which they did. There were others who attacked me for suggesting that they could go 'naked', as they put it in Zulu. I am just telling you these stories for you to understand what I mean when I say that some of the missionaries made us ashamed of our traditional dress. I even remember as a young boy at KwaDlamahlahla, where I grew up, that on one occasion my cousins, the daughters of King Solomon, my maternal uncle, wore a traditional Zulu necklace, and the priest's wife took them to task for wearing "Amagcagcane" which were described as "pagan necklaces."
So you can understand the background against which I had to launch the Bureau of Zulu Language and Culture which preceded the Heritage Foundation which today is Amafa AkwaZulu Natal, which I also founded to rehabilitate the psyche of my people. I did so because we could not stand up as one Nation after the conquests, and the brain-washing by some in our churches, which made our people not proud of their culture.
I can see in more recent writings, things that vindicate what I have tried to do to make the Zulu people proud of their culture. In a book which was written in 1993 by the well-known Kenyan author, Ngugi wa Thiong'o - entitled Moving the Centre (The struggle for cultural freedoms) he states in the very preface:
It was clear to me that our own values had been drowned in the various ways as I described earlier. If we seek culture, values and education at their best, we need look no further than the Ubuntu-Botho Provincial Cultural Competition. Today, I encourage each of you to immerse yourselves in this experience. I know that there are feelings of nervous excitement about your performance here today, but I trust that you will also experience the camaraderie, sense of unity and celebration which is present among us. The expression of our culture is an important part of who we are. The hymns and the dances we enjoy today form part of a cultural heritage which spans generations. Many Zulu men and women sang these words several generations before you. Today, your voices echo a history which is alive and thriving. Through the Ingoma and Indlamu, the courageous spirit of our people rises time and again.
There is a spirit of excellence present here today that makes me proud to be a Zulu. As you may know, I learnt about our people’s cultural history at my mother’s knee. My mother, Princess Constance Magogo ka Dinuzulu taught me not only the facts about my people, but imparted an unshakable sense of dignity in knowing that I am born into a mighty nation. My mother pointed out the strong character traits of the Zulu nation, how we live in unity, make decisions by collegial wisdom and face challenges with a wealth of experience. Our past experience is important as an indicator of how we ought to move forward. Knowing our people’s history is an important tool for any young man or woman seeking to fulfil their own potential. Any nation that does not have its own values cannot even get grounded in the values that we come across within other cultures with which we interact every day.
I believe that each of you here today has a great deal of potential. Your talent, commitment and determination have brought you to this stage in the Provincial Cultural Competition. You have made the decision to practice diligently. You have made the decision to honour your culture. You have made the decision to embrace your heritage. These are all good decisions. Indeed, if you are committed to fulfilling your potential in all areas of life, it is essential that you consistently make the right life decisions. The subject Ubuntu-Botho was taught by us specifically to assist our youth in this regard. Vocational skills training, good citizenship, respectable values, proper conduct, patriotism, cultural appreciation and social responsibility, are important stepping stones towards achieving a fullness of life in which you are bound to fulfil your greatest potential.
It is essential that a strong foundation of right values and principles be laid in every young person’s life. In order to achieve this aim, our schools and our teachers play a vital role. Yet in the end, it is up to individual young men and women to decide whether they are open to learning and being taught, or whether ignorance will ensure that they never rise to their full potential. Education, education and more education is the key to conquering one’s future. This truth applies equally to a nation as it does to an individual. If we are to match the rapid pace of global transformation, we must learn all there is to know about the world around us. The foundation on which we build in the first place is our own world. We must make education our highest priority. It is a well-known principle in education that we move from the known to the unknown.
I believe this is a challenge particularly appealing to young people. Time and again I have witnessed the energy and enthusiasm of young South Africans. I know that you are ready to change the world. Such idealism is an important resource for any country. When a nation becomes resigned to adverse circumstances and a poor quality of life, there is little which can motivate a revolution. More often than not, it is young people who are the revolutionaries. It is young people with the courage and will to change their circumstances.
I challenge you today not to allow your dreams to be circumscribed by your circumstances. Whoever has the boldness to dare to change their circumstances will discover that the only real limits to what they can achieve are self-imposed.
I have lived my entire life with the vision of always becoming more and better than I already am. My standards of personal excellence are not only a result of my character, but have been shaped by my knowledge of who I am. I am a Zulu and I am proud of my heritage. I take great pleasure in seeing our culture and values expressed through young people such as yourselves. Being proud of being a Zulu does not mean that I am not at the same time proud of being an African. It also does not mean that I am not proud of being a South African of Zulu extraction. There was a time when the previous regime tried to make Zulus out of Zulus, as I used to put it, when they abused our ethnicity to create barriers between us and our brothers and sisters of other ethnic groups in this country. But I have never been ashamed of saying that I am a Zulu, for that is a matter of history which I cannot change. The burden of this is worse in my case because the blood of the man "Zulu " himself courses through my veins. I remember that in 1994, I was attacked in the National Parliament for some of the statements I used to make in trying to promote our people who were divided, by saying that they should be proud of their "Zuluness." I am quite unrepentant, for I was not suggesting that we should embark on the kind of exclusiveness that the previous regime tried to foist on black people and on all the people of South Africa.
Your participation in this Provincial Cultural Competition is an expression of your identity as young Zulu men and women. Seeing your enthusiasm, I am assured that our nation’s rich culture will flourish far into our future and that, collectively, we will maintain our identity as strong and proud protagonists within our own country. The spirit of the Zulu nation is alive within each of us. The strength of Kings and Amakhosi is our heritage. I believe that the knowledge of where we have come from will give us the courage to conquer what is to come. One great philosopher said that to know where you are going, you have to know where you come from.
There is a great deal of change happening in our world. Technological progress has opened doors which my own generation would never have thought possible. Information is now readily available to anyone with the inclination to look for it. Boundaries are disappearing and distances are closing in what we call the global village. Today it is quite simple to instantly communicate with people all the way across the world, people who are different to ourselves, who have had different life experiences, who have a different perspective and different answers to the challenges confronting all of us. Today, mass media is able to bring the realities of people far away from us right into our classrooms. It has also taken our own reality and brought it into the homes of people living in more developed countries, through television images, Internet websites and global communication. These are tremendous changes, and they are shaping a new world in which we will find ourselves having to operate. The question is, how will we react to such change?
I wish to challenge every young person here today to embrace change and to allow it to permeate your world. Open your minds to the world outside and do not fear what is still unfamiliar. If you are willing to look every unfamiliar thing in the eye and learn about it, change will never succeed in alienating you. Education is not just something received in the classroom. It ought to be pursued constantly, in every situation, throughout our lives. I cannot over-emphasise how important it is that we educate ourselves beyond our immediate horizons. Every older person has the potential to teach you something new simply because of their life experience. I encourage you to respect your teachers, for they are trained specifically to equip you with knowledge and skill. But don’t let that stop you from taking the time to listen to your elders and to learn from a variety of sources. The world may be changing quickly, but there remain basic values that must be learnt if one is to navigate a successful path in life. I am never ashamed to repeat that when I returned to Mahlabathini after completing my degree at the age of 22 years and working in Durban for only a year, I learnt even more than I learnt at University from the elders of my clan and from my family.
One of the most important lessons is learning to accept who you are. Each of you here today has been blessed to be born into a cultural system which embraces young people and esteems discipline, responsibility and cohesion. These may not be the most popular words in a young person’s vocabulary, but I know there will come a time in every life where you will be pleased to have learnt these things. Discipline teaches one where the boundaries lie and bestows a sense of security. Responsibility acknowledges that one has a role to play and imparts a sense of belonging. Cohesion reminds us that our actions have consequences for other people. This means that our own success uplifts everyone around us. If we accept to acquire greater skills, we raise the standard for our peers. If we choose to fulfil our potential, we blaze a trail for others to follow. If we choose to become good citizens, we are contributing to a monumental shift towards a better South Africa.
For years I have called for a revolution of goodwill. I have done so in the full knowledge that a better South Africa depends on an ever-increasing number of people of goodwill taking responsibility and determining the direction of change. It is said that every country, every community and every person is moving at all times, either towards becoming better or towards becoming worse. In every society, there is an underlying battle for the hearts and minds of individual people. A stable and prosperous country demands good citizens who understand their rights and responsibilities. Civic education is essential to ensure that we move towards becoming better every day. I feel it is important that we nurture those aspects of our Zulu cultural tradition that equip us to become good citizens in respect of our government and our society.
Since our history began to be recorded it has been noted that Zulus are born into regiments. This social structure is an important element in the formative growth of children into adults. Originally these regiments were military in nature, preparing our young people to be warriors. But even girls had regiment formations, even if they did not go to battle. For instance, some of you have heard of women of the 'Ingcugce' maidens' regiment. My own mother formed these regiments of young women in various age groups, when she was a maiden herself. I remember that there were some old leaders who were proud of belonging to a regiment that my mother formed "Izinsingizi". I think even today we need to maintain a structure of regiments, which will, unlike in the past, be focused on new challenges that we face in our communities. These would concentrate on preparing young people for the challenges of life.
In a sense, the battle lines have shifted. We are no longer pitted man against man, fighting each other. Our present day battle is played out in the fight against poor social conditions, a lack of education, poverty, the spread of HIV/AIDS and unemployment. The subject of Ubuntu-Botho aims to equip young people to win this fight. Over the years I have watched the Ubuntu-Botho competition grow as the enthusiasm of students across KwaZulu Natal generated a tremendous wave of participation. I believe the young people of our Province have truly made this competition their own. Its success has proven to me that young South Africans have a fire of patriotism burning within them that cannot be extinguished by difficult circumstances. Indeed, I have often seen that difficult circumstances stoke the flames of determination and courage. Since this competition started in 1991, I have proudly watched young Zulus become immersed in their cultural heritage. I have watched young people grow more confident as they become secure in their cultural identity. I have watched responsibility, goodwill and patriotism develop within our youth.
When I was the Chief Minister of the erstwhile KwaZulu Government, there was a great deal of propaganda against teaching Ubuntu-Botho in our schools. Those who did not understand the value of what we were doing, or feared the strength we gathered from our unity, called Ubuntu-Botho "indoctrination". Yet I persevered. Having introduced this subject into KwaZulu’s schools, I was determined that the benefit would be felt by each successive generation. I know that a cultural heritage can only be a blessing when it is carried over to the next generation. I wanted our young people to grow up with a solid foundation in good values and good citizenship, so that they could teach the next generation how to improve their circumstances. People shape their world through their actions and attitude. If we want better communities, we need better individuals. If we want better circumstances, we need good people who know how to usher in change.
As you know, I am of the Christian faith. I believe the Word of God. In Proverbs 22 verse 6 it says "Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it". I believe that when a young person receives a good education, a mature adult is being formed. If we lay a good foundation among our youth, we may rest assured that tomorrow’s consumers, tomorrow’s workers and tomorrow’s leaders will be responsible and equipped to face the challenges of our future. When you are my age, I believe you will look back on moments such as this and recognise that your education has shaped you into who you are. I do hope that your education still comprises Ubuntu-Botho. I trust that whatever you learn today, you will teach tomorrow. The notion of older people teaching the younger ones is a valuable part of our Zulu culture, both for boys and girls. For instance, the reason why many Zulu parents of my age get lost when they are implored by some of our country's luminaries through advertisements on TV and the print media to talk to their children about sex, is because this was a function performed by older girls to younger girls in Zulu society. It was always a senior girl in charge of a group formation of girls younger than herself - "Iqhikiza."
During the initial years of having introduced Ubuntu-Botho into our schools, I held fast to my belief that education brings liberation. Without the facts, one is ill-equipped to make good decisions. At that time, many people were destroying schools under the banner of "Liberation first, education later". However, I knew that knowledge and skills would give us the leverage we needed to change our circumstances and I rallied our communities to work together to build schools, secure teachers and educate our children. Today, I still believe that education brings liberation. Knowledge opens opportunities. Skill enables one to use them.
It is for this reason that I established the first technical college in KwaZulu Natal. Through the years, the Mangosuthu Technikon has provided hundreds of thousands of young people with broader horizons and a better chance of fulfilling their own potential.
Ubuntu-Botho has lost none of its value in the third millennium. In fact, it has become more important than ever before. There are tremendous challenges facing our country, our communities and our young people. If we are to see a change for the better, we must equip the protagonists of change to know the direction, the pace and the purpose with which we must move. I believe that Ubuntu-Botho is teaching our young people how to become the future leaders of progress, development and prosperity. By teaching good citizenship, we are securing a stable and functional society for our future. This generation will take us far if it is willing to commit to education, education and education. Learn all there is to be learnt, and know that there is still much more. Teach each other. Learn from each other. In everything, challenge old paradigms and be open to change.
I would have no fears for our new generation if we did embrace some of our old values and norms. The commitment I have witnessed today to our culture, our history and our traditions assures me that you are firmly grounded, wisely guided and open to positive change. Still, I challenge you to remember that every moment of every day you are moving towards becoming either better or worse, depending on how you are spending your time. I believe that this generation has the will to make the right decisions. If you truly wish to fulfil your potential, you cannot compromise on decision-making. The decisions to act responsibly as far as HIV/AIDS is concerned, to avoid harmful addictions, to engage in positive activities, to respect your elders and to educate yourself as far as possible, are decisions which will dramatically improve your quality of life.
What you are doing today, speaks of what you will become tomorrow. The events we are witnessing here in Ulundi at the Provincial Cultural Competition tell me that you are becoming talented, confident young people. Never, ever be ashamed of our old Zulu values, or old Sotho values, or old Xhosa values, etc. if you belong to those ethnic groups. We defeated apartheid and ideological ethnic walls which the previous regime tried to build between us to keep us in bondage. There is talk now of our African Renaissance. These are the times when all our cultural values should blossom to equip us to fight even the scourge of HIV/AIDS. I encourage you to maintain this course, for the sake of our country and our nation’s future. I wish you all every success in today’s competition. May your efforts be recognised and applauded during this wonderful experience.