AFRICAN CULTURAL MUSIC AND DANCE ASSOCIATION

HIV/AIDS AWARENESS CAMPAIGN


REMARKS BY

MANGOSUTHU BUTHELEZI, MP

MINISTER OF HOME AFFAIRS AND PRESIDENT OF THE INKATHA FREEDOM PARTY

ORLANDO STADIUM: APRIL 16, 2000

The finals of the African Cultural Music and Dance Association's HIV/AIDS Awareness Competition marks the culmination of many weeks of excitement, hard work, creativity, team spirit and community goodwill. I am proud to attend today's events and am pleased at the opportunity to address the hundreds of traditional singers and dancers gathered to give their finest performance. I wish to congratulate each one of you even before the results are read.

Each of you is a winner today, for you are fighting a fight that must be won through the creative approach of our people. Your work has been to teach, and this work has been accomplished with exceptional success.

Music and dance evoke the most creative features in our human nature, elevating us beyond the level of the ordinary and exploring our extraordinary capacity for communication and expression. As a passionate form of expression, music and dance seldom have only one layer of meaning. Today, our performers express themselves on an issue of deep impact and meaning for the lives of all South Africans. Through every song performed and every musical piece presented, through every dance and every subtle movement, the truth is being spoken about the devastation of the HIV/AIDS epidemic. The efforts of ACUMDA are bringing the facts to those who most need to hear.

The HIV/AIDS Awareness Campaign of ACUMDA must be applauded, as too must the AIDS Directorate of the Gauteng Provincial Government's Health Department which has provided the funding for this project. Surely, the success of this campaign lies in community involvement and the encouragement extended to traditional groups from townships and inner city hostels to participate as the main players, giving their contribution of effort and self-expression. This is truly a revolution of goodwill in practice. It warms my heart to see the extent of the involvement of ordinary people who have come forward of their own initiative to join this campaign. It is the ordinary man and woman who are threatened by AIDS, and so it must be the ordinary man and woman who take up the fight against it. 

Campaigns of awareness often assume the form of a campaign of information. They give us all the horrifying facts about this disease, explaining how it is contracted, what are its symptoms, the slow and inevitable death of its victims and the painful suffering of a grieving family. They tell us how many have died of AIDS, how many are contracting HIV daily and how many will be dead ten years from now. Yet what the figures and facts are largely incapable of doing, is to convey the human emotion behind the epidemic. The expression of this emotion can only be achieved through a medium to which we respond on a more basic level. We respond to figures with our heads, but to dance and music, we listen with our hearts.

It is also of significant value that the music and dance which tell the story of the HIV/AIDS epidemic will be heard by those whom it is difficult to reach by conventional means. Those who hear the message in our inner city hostels and townships may carry it into rural areas when they return home or travel to remote areas to visit family and friends. The majority of people in rural areas do not have access to the most immediate sources of information, let alone the technological resource of the Internet. Too many are yet illiterate, and newspapers or pamphlets have little impact. Even television and radio are not widely accessible. If we are to get the message of HIV/AIDS into these communities, we must choose a means which conveys the truth directly from person to person.

I believe that the African Cultural Music and Dance Association has chosen the perfect vehicle to convey a message which must be heard. We are faced daily with the deadly threat of HIV/AIDS. It is true that our people are being decimated and our youngest and strongest, indeed our work force, are being targeted for elimination. We cannot stand back and allow AIDS to win.

However, we are not fighting a battle that can be won through a smart political manoeuvre or a planned military tactic. In fact, government alone cannot do anything to save the life of even one individual from the grip of HIV/AIDS. The decision to act responsibly and live, or to take chances and die, rests in the hands of every individual South African. Government cannot make you responsible. All we can do is give the facts and pray that our people will make the right choices.

As leaders of South Africa, we in government carry a difficult burden, for we know that the HIV/AIDS epidemic is without a doubt the greatest battle South Africa will have to fight. Yet, we are incapable of simply writing it into law that AIDS may not spread, or that all our people must act responsibly. On the other hand, there is the potential in this battle to unite the efforts of government and those of the people governed in the truest expression of goodwill and democratic success. Co-operation must characterise every effort between government and civil society, between communities and community leaders, and even between individuals and their partners. Co-operation in fighting the spread of HIV/AIDS will give the measure of our determination to be responsible for our own lives.

ACUMDA has given the example of such co-operation, based on community participation, a spirit of team work and real commitment to goodwill. Every performer here today has expressed their goodwill through joining the African Cultural Music and Dance Association's campaign of awareness against HIV/AIDS. Let us make the fight against HIV/AIDS part of our revolution of goodwill. We know that HIV is contagious, but of one thing we can be sure: so too is goodwill.

I am certain that the spirit of goodwill demonstrated by each performer throughout the past weeks has touched the people they have visited, and that each community, one by one, has caught the goodwill bug. We have clear evidence of this by the overwhelming support and participation in ACUMDA's project.

Even in this stadium, there is a tangible atmosphere of celebration and excitement. It is not generated merely by the fact that there are prizes to be won and entertainment to be had. There is a greater spirit of joining forces against the enemy that is HIV/AIDS. There is a spirit of goodwill emanating from the performers, drifting from the supporters and flowing among each one of us present here today. Goodwill means accepting responsibility for ourselves and for others. If we are to avoid seeing more and more South Africans contracting HIV and dying of AIDS, I believe we must redouble our efforts to catch and spread the goodwill bug. Today, I congratulate the performers for carrying this message and wish them all the best of luck.

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