Nhlamvuziyashisa Hall, Mahlabathini: September 13, 2002

It gives me tremendous pleasure to return to Mahlabathini today to officially open one of the most important events on the calendar of this Province. Each year the Mahlabathini Agricultural Industrial Show gives evidence of the spirit, industriousness and productivity of this community. Each year, as I survey the product of your toil and care, I am reassured of your commitment to sustainable development, food security and agricultural excellence. The repeated success of this Show is a testimony to what may be achieved when a community commits itself to self-help and self-reliance, and does so with excellence. The high standard which has been set in years past at this Show is continually being raised and today I am inclined to believe that, once again, the community of Mahlabathini has exceeded our greatest expectations.

At the outset, I wish to express my gratitude and respect for the Honourable Narend Singh, our Minister for Agriculture and Environmental Affairs in KwaZulu Natal. I appreciate that his undaunted vision and dedicated efforts to fulfil the mandate of his Department, to optimise the vast agricultural potential of this Province and enhance environmental stability, has brought inestimable benefits to our people. Minister Singh has performed his function with outstanding success. Under such leadership I believe our Province may continue one step ahead of the struggle for food security, sustainable agricultural development and environmental protection. These are issues which we have committed to take on as a province. I feel that the community of Mahlabathini is leading the way in our commitment and proving that we can overcome the obstacles of adversity we face on a daily basis to successfully feed our people and challenge the foothold of poverty among us.

I have great admiration for this community. Mahlabathini is close to my heart for several reasons. Each year as I come to this place, I am once again inspired by what we may accomplish as a people when we set our hearts to trying. The difficulties facing our communities in KwaZulu Natal are very real, immediate and great. Perhaps the most daunting among them is that of being able to nourish all our people with quality food. Quality and quantity are equally important in the equation of food security. The launch of Xoshindlala has brought home the importance of driving away hunger, so that our people can become strong, physically able to work and produce, and take care of themselves. It is said that even a philosopher cannot think on an empty stomach. If we want to see our people raised above the present level of need, through hard work as well as ingenuity, it is essential that they are well-nourished.

I appreciate that the Mahlabathini Agricultural Industrial Show offers a platform from which improved methods of farming can be discussed and knowledge can be dispersed. From here, greater wisdom may grow on how best to produce a good crop and healthy livestock. In our province of KwaZulu Natal, ever improved farming methods are vital to ever increasing production. Here, in our province, we have a very present need for more and better food. Considering that we may lay claim to the terrible title of being one of the worst hit areas by HIV/AIDS, it is important that we can produce what is needed to keep our people healthy and strong. People who are HIV positive can live productive and fulfilled lives for many years, provided they take care of themselves physically. Physical health also has an impact on emotional and psychological well-being. When one is fit and leading a healthy lifestyle which includes eating balanced, nutritious meals at regular intervals, a better frame of mind is cultivated. Feeling healthy goes a long way to seeing oneself as a fully functional, capable and useful individual, and this is extremely important for anyone suffering from a terminal disease.

I feel I may take this opportunity to dispel certain myths about HIV/AIDS. People who are HIV positive are still a valuable part of our community. For all those who are suffering, I wish to encourage you to remain involved in the life of your community and indeed to become more involved than ever. For everyone suffering under HIV/AIDS there is a battle of the mind to overcome, before even considering the battle to stay healthy. The stigma of HIV/AIDS must be dispelled. Anyone who is HIV positive can still be a good friend, a responsible family member, an upright citizen, an outstanding farmer, a conscientious conservationist and a fulfilled human being. Life does not end until it ends. Indeed, I believe we should all live with the knowledge that our contribution towards future generations is limited to what we may do in our own lifetimes, regardless of how long or how short that time may be. Growing food through sustainable farming methods is a worthy contribution to future generations. Conserving our natural environment through educated agriculture is a gift of goodwill to our children’s children.

The campaign for food security is an essential part of developing the socio-economic potential of our less privileged people. I believe our rural communities have the potential to become prosperous, but I know that the road towards prosperity is one that must be walked day in and day out for many years before the destination is reached. By committing ourselves to sustainable development in the field of agriculture, we are leaving an inheritance to our posterity which will enable them to begin their own walk along the road to prosperity a little further up the way than we did. We must teach smart farming methods to our young people, benefitting them with the experience of years. But we must not fall into the trap of thinking that whatever has been done a certain way for generations should still be done that same way tomorrow. With new discoveries about our soil, plants, animals, fodder and breeding methods constantly occurring, better techniques to acquire better results are constantly arising. We must not only be open to learning how to farm better, but must become passionate about it.

KwaZulu Natal has the potential to become the heart of agriculture in South Africa. I know that Minister Singh’s Department is committed to unleashing the potential of this Province through public-private partnerships, such as the KwaZulu Natal Agricultural Trust. We are also working to create sustainable employment by developing subsistence farmers to become emerging and then commercial farmers. In this way, we may raise the economic levels within a community. However, subsistence farming has a valuable role to play within KwaZulu Natal. In line with the principles of self-help and self-reliance, subsistence farming ensures that people become independent and do not place a burden on their community. Even in this way economic upliftment becomes possible. I wish to take this opportunity to express my appreciation for the many projects identified and initiated by the Department of Agriculture and Environmental Affairs, working hand in hand with communities across our Province. I believe the Department of Agriculture and Environmental Affairs operates from a good foundation, recognising the need to empower individual people and to empower communities to assist themselves and create their own sustainable development.

Sustainable development is a highly valued and emphasised notion in the present day debate around global issues confronting people everywhere. Last week saw the completion of the World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg, which I had the privilege to attend. During this week long Summit, we spent an enormous amount of time talking about poverty. Such emphasis on poverty expressed how this is truly a worldwide challenge. It is disheartening to see how difficult it is to deal with the issue of poverty. Great nations are trying to deal with it and yet far too little has been achieved. To me this confirms that we need to approach this challenge from a multiplicity of angles. Most importantly, we need to start from the ground level where poverty is taking its greatest toll. We must nourish the culture of self-help and self-reliance so that we may undermine the foothold of poverty. We must commit to the small things that collectively can make a difference.

Even the smallest projects make a difference, because they see people fed, nourished and employed. Vegetable gardens and chicken farms are at the heart of our efforts to eradicate poverty. It is essential that we build on cooperation in agriculture, soliciting the inputs and assistance of government in cooperative efforts. Cooperatives enable individuals to achieve much more than they could individually. I have seen this time and time again. I have struggled all my life to alleviate poverty and this fight will remain a feature of my life. Although it may not be won in my own lifetime, I believe it will eventually be won as we continue our undaunted daily walk towards prosperity. I am well aware of the concerns and difficulties we face. These are difficult times indeed. Throughout the world the winds of war are stirring. For those willing to see it, it is clear that there is already a great conflict between the forces of democracy and those which oppose democracy. This conflict is set to affect South Africa adversely. However, while it does not necessarily portend doom for our country, it certainly urges us to commit to democracy, democracy, democracy.

This year, as I addressed the Annual General Conference of the IFP Youth Brigade, I spoke strongly on the need to protect and promote democracy across South Africa. We need to strengthen democracy. We need to hold our elected representatives accountable. We need to commit to working hand in hand with our leaders, so that we know what they are doing and we can tell them what we need. Our youth has a particularly important role to play in fostering democracy. If they fail to protect it now, the governance they themselves will experience twenty or thirty years from now will not be democratic at all. As I did at the Youth Brigade Conference, I urge all our youth in Mahlabathini to get involved and become a part of our efforts to build a better future and a greater hope for our people. These efforts must reach into every building block of our society and transform every aspect of our lives.

During the World Summit on Sustainable Development, it impressed me time and time again how people from all corners of the world have begun to place such emphasis on holistic development, which protects our environment while furthering our own aspirations as human beings. It occurred to me that my own African people have understood the value of this interconnectedness for many generations. We know that our own lives depend upon the air, the land, the water, the plants and the animals in our surrounding environment. Our culture has cultivated a deep respect for environmental protection. However, it is sad that often the plight of poverty and its pressing cry have driven us to think less about protecting our land and animals, for the sake of feeding and housing our people.

I have been a conservationist for many years, even before it became politically correct to publicly express concern for animals and plants. I recall many occasions in which I have negotiated with communities and urged them to protect the natural environment by opting for more difficult or costly developmental efforts. Particularly in areas bordering game reserves, it has at times been difficult to persuade people that meeting the immediate needs for arable land at the expense of long-term environmental stability, would eventually demand a higher price than any community could pay. I am proud to say that many of our rural communities have joined a harmonious cooperation with government, investors and developers, and are playing a vital role in sustainable development and environmental protection. In some respects, the emphasis has shifted towards tourist-based activities, and in every instance thus far these initiatives have met with success. The benefits accrue towards the communities themselves. Foreign investment is an essential element in the equation of our development. Unfortunately, there has not yet been enough to make a difference in the life of all.

I appreciate that the Department of Agriculture and Environmental Affairs is diligently pursuing investment and donor funding to support developmental projects aimed at achieving food security, enabling training and education, and generating community upliftment. The establishment of the Agricultural Development Trust marks yet another milestone in the successful efforts of the Department in this regard. I offer my unqualified support to such efforts. I believe that investing in projects of this nature gives one an opportunity to become part of securing a better tomorrow. Each one of us should make an investment in our collective future, whether it be in time, effort, teaching or finances. Our own cultural traditions remind us that our individual existence and identity is dependent on the people around us. I am by virtue of you being. My own development is intimately tied to your development.; my own fulfilment, to the fulfilment of your needs. My vision of prosperity, stability and peace encompasses every one of us. Indeed, no one stands alone.

Agricultural activities are community activities. They draw people together with the common purpose of utilising the land and its natural resources with wisdom, skill and care in order to extract the maximum long-term benefit. The Mahlabathini Agricultural Industrial Show is a fine example of how activities of this nature bring people together and generate a camaraderie which can be put to good use. A spirit of cooperation is an essential element in the development of any community. As we work the land, we work in harmony. As we teach the skills we have acquired to a younger generation, we stimulate job creation and contribute towards a more economically prosperous community. I encourage each of you to work hand in hand with your neighbours and community members. Today, we enjoy lighthearted competition which is good for several reasons. I firmly believe that hard work should be valued and appreciated, and every participant and exhibitor at this Show deserves recognition for their efforts. I also know that competition spurs us on to greater effort, greater commitment and greater heights. Yet on every day of the year between this Show and next year’s show, I urge you to combine your efforts and work together in competition, not against one another, but against the odds of adverse and difficult circumstances.

I am deeply inspired when I travel anywhere in KwaZulu Natal. Throughout our Province I have seen community gardens, irrigation schemes, the growing of hydroponic vegetables, orchards and livestock farms being operated by communities. It is estimated that around 27 000 households are participating in projects of this nature, which ensures that a tremendous number of people are fed, employed and trained. Working in conjunction with government, communities involved in these projects are also receiving the benefit of greater scientific knowledge which ensures that appropriate farming systems are used. In the end, this means increased production at lower costs. There are many ways in which farming may be improved in KwaZulu Natal. There are a variety of crops whose viability have not yet been fully investigated. There are teachable and dedicated people needing only the opportunity of land and training in order to make a valuable contribution towards economic upliftment. There are projects not yet embarked on and human resources not yet fully used. For all these reasons, I am excited by the potential in KwaZulu Natal.

The potential here in Mahlabathini alone astounds me. Whenever I come here, I am left with the impression that I have spoken to very capable, very valuable people. Throughout the years, I believe I have seen some of the most remarkable evidence of the great potential being unleashed among us right here in Mahlabathini. There are several catalysts for this unleashing of potential, one of which, no doubt, is education. The more committed we are to learning what we do not know, the more we see the benefits of personal and collective growth. Self-help and self-reliance have remained for many years the twin catalysts of community development in this Province. They are the two principles to which I have consistently been committed throughout my time of leadership, and they remain my clarion call among our poorest communities. I have no doubt that simple goodwill has played its part in securing increased community development. The leadership of our amaKhosi, the perseverance of our people and the undaunted will to survive have all played their part.

Today, as I enjoy the privilege of declaring the Mahlabathini Agricultural Industrial Show officially open, I wish to give due recognition to all those who have contributed not only to this event, but to the growth and development of Mahlabathini. Mahlabathini stands as a testimony to our success in KwaZulu Natal and is a reminder of what may still be achieved in even our poorest communities. I am delighted to come here and walk among the members of this community, knowing that you have put your hearts into your labour to produce such a wonderful display. The Mahlabathini Agricultural Industrial Show is an event always worth attending. Once again, I feel my spirits lifted. Once again, I am assured that we may succeed in securing a future of food security, sustainable development, environmental stability and community growth throughout this Province. If we can do it here, surely we can do it again.

I offer my warm congratulations to each of you and take great pleasure in declaring the Mahlabathini Agricultural Industrial Show officially open.