Ascot Conference Centre : August 16, 2002

Master of Ceremonies, Mr Khulani Mkhize B Chief Executive Officer of Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife, colleagues in the Cabinet of KwaZulu-Natal, members of the KZN Portfolio Committee on Conservation and Environment Affairs, Chairman Professor Nzimande and members of the KZN Nature Conservation Board, and members of staff of Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife, Conservation Award nominees, ladies and gentlemen. 

I attend a great many functions throughout this wonderful province and Minister Singh came close to stealing my thunder when he spoke about his pride in being here tonight. It is indeed heartwarming to be here tonight to witness the deep commitment of people and business organisations in this province to promoting the cause of nature conservation and protection of the environment.

The variety of activities mentioned in the list of nominees makes me realise too that there must be a great many people, businesses and communities whose activities either did not qualify or were not submitted. Although it is always sad that we cannot recognise everyone's efforts, this brings with it the acknowledgement that there are many more people out there who are carrying on with their own projects at different levels throughout the province. To all of these people - the nominees, the winners and all those who remain unrecognised, I say "Congratulations and well done" and more importantly "Keep up the good work!"

Just as environmental issues in this province are so strongly supported at grassroots level, so it is at government level. 

KZN Wildlife is a lead agency in the planning of field excursions for delegates to the World Parks Congress to be held in Durban next year. It is indeed a feather in the cap of this province that we are able to demonstrate to this international congress that we are also a leading agency in the active involvement of communities in the effective management of our protected areas. KZN Wildlife is determined to succeed in making its protected areas an integral part of the social and economic fabric of neighbouring communities. 

A further international involvement is the establishment of the Maluti-Drakensberg Trans-Frontier Park between South Africa and Lesotho. The initial accord was signed at central government level last year. In July this year we signed the grant agreement between ourselves and the World Bank which is funded by the Global Environmental Fund that provides 15 million US dollars (that is about R150 million) - split equally between ourselves and Lesotho for the conservation of the World Heritage Site uKhahlamba-Drakensberg on the KZN side, and for projects on the Lesotho side. This includes expanding the project to neighbouring provinces such as the Free State and Eastern Cape.

KZN Wildlife is the lead agency in this project and it is supported by the national department of Environment Affairs and Tourism, as well as South African National Parks and the conservation agencies of the Free State and Eastern Cape. The World Summit on Sustainable Development is due to begin in Johannesburg shortly and we in KwaZulu-Natal are playing a significant part in the activities associated with this summit.

South Africa is hosting the World Summit on Sustainable Development that begins very soon in Johannesburg and we in KZN will be fully involved wherever we can be.

If world leaders and governments are concerned about sustainability issues on a global scale, we should be equally concerned at provincial, regional and local level. Gone are the days when governments were prepared to pour money into projects to keep them afloat simply because they looked good. And it remains a source of pride that Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife has managed through its own efforts to reduce the drain on taxpayers by generating almost half its own operating budget.

As Premier I expect the principles of good governance to prevail throughout these processes - and I am very pleased to note that this has been the case. There are many calls made on conservation - every day we hear pleas to save the whales, save the wild dogs, save rhinos, save this, save that - but ladies and gentlemen - without the environment at large - the air we breathe, the water we drink, the soil we plough, the sea, the forests - NOTHING will survive. It is for this reason that recognition and encouragement of private sector efforts in nature conservation is so important. This is why this province believes in supporting a strong conservation authority. It is for this reason that the education of our children in environmental issues assumes top priority. It has been said that we as adults do not own the world but have it in trust for future generations.

Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife has been through a difficult period and I believe that the organisation is still rebuilding its strength. In spite of this, it is worth noting that the grassroots work of nature conservation, of building up eco-tourism capacity, of involving local communities in all manner of projects and partnerships, is still continuing.

I have made it clear to my Cabinet colleagues that the "zero tolerance" philosophy should permeate the provincial administration of KwaZulu-Natal. Maladministration is the curse of South Africa. We have an obligation to improve governance in our province. I am fortunate to have colleagues of the calibre of Mr Singh and Mr Miller. I commend them for the good work done in their respective departments. 

The philosophy of sustainable development - or even of mere sustainability - should, go hand in hand with that of zero tolerance. The difference is, perhaps, that we translate our thoughts into actions.

Mr Miller will endorse the fact that no administration has access to limitless funding and that more than ever before we need to judge very carefully the value of every Rand we spend. I am watching with interest the moves that Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife is making to boost its eco-tourism operations. There is, I believe, an enormous potential lying almost dormant. If the organisation can achieve this turnaround it will mean a great deal to the province as a whole.

This province has a proud record of excellence in its nature conservation activities and I believe this record will be sustained. As a province we are rendering a worthy investment in conservation. I see conservation staff exerting a marked influence in a 
wide range of community activities, food production, literacy, small business, eco-tourism operations, environmental education and much more. It brings to mind that old adage about giving a man a fish as opposed to teaching a man to catch fish.

Honoured guests, ladies and gentlemen, I congratulate the nominees and winners of the 2001 KZN Wildlife Conservation Awards, and urge you all - both private individuals and staff of Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife, to continue your commitment to nature conservation and protection of the environment. Your efforts may not be evident in your lifetime. 

Keep up the good work in nature conservation.

I thank you.