Agricultural Show At Cebisa Senior Secondary School
Remarks By Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi MP
Traditional Prime Minister Of The Zulu Nation



Melmoth: 18 August 2011


I was pleased to receive an invitation from Mr JS Nduli to visit Cebisa Senior Secondary School today. This is an important occasion in the life of the school and this community, as together we raise awareness and challenge one another to promote good agricultural practice. I am grateful to be able to share this occasion and express my support.


As the traditional Prime Minister of the Zulu Nation, the needs of my people are always foremost in my mind. From a young age, I have been a conservationist, believing that the preservation of our natural environment will ensure the preservation of a higher quality of life. Indeed, life itself is dependent on our commitment to protecting natural resources, from coal and minerals, to water, soil and air. The life of our fauna and flora depends on it, but so do our own lives.


I became a conservationist long before it was fashionable to care about plants and animals. It was not easy to convince people to set aside land for animals when we needed scarce land for our own uses. But even as the newly appointed Inkosi of the Buthelezi Clan, almost 60 years ago, I encouraged our communities to support the creation of game reserves. In doing this, I was simply following the example of my forebears, for King Shaka and my maternal great grandfather King Cetshwayo had game reserves. Much of our game would have disappeared years ago, had it not been for the strict rules about hunting in Zulu society.


Today, of course, conservation is a hot topic, and international forums are convened to discuss issues like global climate change and food security. International conventions are signed and governments' declare bold statements of commitment. These are an important part of preserving our natural resources. But in the end, ensuring that we farm in a sustainable way and take care of our livestock depends on an individual commitment. It is here, at shows like this, that people become responsible caretakers of our future welfare.


My concern for the environment is linked to my commitment to pursue food security in South Africa. In the last few weeks, we have seen a devastating famine in Somalia. The recognition that our global population is growing faster than our food production capacity is a frightening wake up call. But the rising cost of food is also a concern, as is the reality that many more people are buying their food, rather than growing it. As I travel throughout KwaZulu Natal, I see fallow land where years ago there were verdant pastures and rows of crops.


Increasingly, South Africans are relying on social grants to feed their families. This is just not sustainable. Our economy is not strong enough, nor is it growing fast enough, to support the social safety net that we have created. South Africa is fast becoming a welfare state, rather than a developmental state. At some point, our welfare system is going to collapse. Our dependence on social grants needs to change.


Of course, I am not against social grants. As the Chief Minister of the erstwhile KwaZulu Government I worked to ensure that our poorest and most vulnerable people could access assistance. But I coupled this with the promotion of the values of self-help and self-reliance. I encouraged people in rural areas to engage in subsistence farming, growing whatever they needed to feed their families. I sent some of our women leaders to the Coady International Institute at St Francis Xavier University in Canada, to study cooperatives and community savings.


Every year, the Women's Brigade of Inkatha held an exhibition in tandem with their conference, to showcase fresh produce and handcrafts. This was an expression of self-help and self-reliance. Today, the IFP's women still hold an exhibition, but I have been sad to see it become smaller and less significant.  I believe that we need to return to our philosophy of self-help and self-reliance.  Food security is a serious concern not only in KwaZulu Natal, but in the whole of South Africa.


Knowing this, I know the importance of things like vegetable gardens. I like flowers, and I still buy them for my wife, but I know that a garden full of flowers does not sustain families. Gardens need to be planted with cabbages and potatoes, and foods that fill hungry bellies.


This is all the more important as we seek to establish healthy eating and good nutrition as one of the key tools in the fight against the ravages of HIV/Aids. There is no food that can prevent HIV infection. But there are many foods that can keep an HIV positive individual healthy and strong, thereby prolonging and improving the quality of life. Another pandemic is that of Tuberculosis, or TB, in a strain that is drug-resistant. People infected with this disease need good nutrition.


Planting and tending a vegetable garden can become a community activity that inspires great pride as well as a sense of accomplishment. There is something honourable about raising livestock and working with the land. Even on a small scale, farming can put food on the table and give a family dignity.


I have received many honours and titles throughout my life, and I have held many high positions. I have been South Africa's Acting President some 22 times. I am an Inkosi. I have been the national Minister of Home Affairs. I am the Prime Minister to the King. But I am also a Christian, a husband and a farmer, and these are perhaps my most important positions. These positions keep me humble and remind me of the purest values man can aspire to. I appreciate the verses in the Bible about farming, particularly Psalm 104:


"14 He causes the grass to grow for the cattle, And vegetation for the service of man, That he may bring forth food from the earth,
15 And wine that makes glad the heart of man, Oil to make his face shine, And bread which strengthens man's heart."


There is beauty in the simplicity of our relationship with God, and our relationship with the earth.


Nevertheless, farming requires responsibility and perseverance. We know that we cannot plant the same field with the same crop year after year and expect the soil to remain fertile. We must use the soil responsibly and rotate our crops. We also know that destroying forests will change ecosystems, upsetting the natural balance. Destroying trees also encourages soil erosion. It is important that we prevent forest fires by acting responsibly and being careful when cooking. Forest fires can be terribly destructive, as they often wipe out homes as well.


In the spirit of ubuntu botho, we take responsibility for ourselves and for each other. Thus if we become aware of stock theft, we must report it, because it is hurting someone's livelihood. Many of our people in KwaZulu Natal live in poverty and hardship. There is no justification for inflicting greater pain on farmers. 


I am pleased that the Agricultural Show at Cebisa Senior Secondary School is highlighting these important issues. I wish to congratulate the Principal and educators for leading the way in promoting responsibility and awareness.


But I also congratulate the pupils of Cebisa Senior Secondary School for getting involved. It is a noble aspiration to want to become self-sufficient, producing enough food for oneself and one's family. I encourage you to become productive citizens, looking to what you can do, rather than what you can get.


I thank you again for inviting me to participate in this important event.


Ms Liezl van der Merwe, Press Officer to Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi MP, on 082 729 2510.