HLABISA: September 22, 2002

His Majesty the King of the Zulu Nation, King Goodwill Zwelithini ka Bhekuzulu; the Honourable Master of Ceremonies; members of the Royal House and amaKhosi present; Your Excellencies, members of the diplomatic corps; our religious leaders; the Honourable Premier of KwaZulu Natal, Dr LPHM Mtshali and Mrs Mtshali; Honourable Ministers from both the National Assembly and the KwaZulu Natal Legislature; members of Parliament; members of provincial Parliaments; Chairpersons of Regional Councils; their Worships the Mayors; Councillors and Indunas; members of the various clans who comprise the Zulu Nation; our distinguished guests.

It is an honour to stand before this gathering of our Zulu Nation as together we celebrate the annual memorial of King Shaka Day. I wish to thank our amaKhosi who have supplied the financial means to make today’s celebration a reality. Each year our traditional leaders express their commitment to our traditions, our Kingdom and our nation, by generously facilitating these King Shaka Day celebrations. I also recognise the commitment of our communities who organise these events in a manner which highlights the significance of why we meet. It is our communities, and not government, who organise our King Shaka Day celebrations. Our communities are giving a clear message of support for our amaKhosi and our Zulu traditions. In so doing, we are strengthening our amaKhosi in the ongoing struggle for their recognition within the present system of governance.

I deeply regret that as we meet today there remain unresolved issues concerning our nation. As yet we are still waiting for the recognition and regulation of our monarchy. We are still waiting for the powers and functions of our amaKhosi to be respected, acknowledged and provided for within the governance of South Africa. Since 1994, when the solemn promise was made that international mediation would resume as soon as possible after the April 27 elections to settle the outstanding issues relating to the recognition of our Kingdom, nothing has been done towards that end. We are still waiting for international mediation. We are still waiting for a resolution to these outstanding issues. Our Kingdom has not yet been recognised at the national level of government. At the provincial level, steps to do so, such as the adoption of a constitution for KwaZulu Natal, have been undermined. The political will to resolve these issues is obviously lacking.

Yet as we gather today as we have done for generations past in various venues to celebrate our identity, our unity and our history, we know who we are. The Zulu people are a people of integrity. No obstacle can erode our integrity. No amount of delaying will change who we are. In years past, we have come together in Hlabisa on this day to signify the unity of our nation, paying tribute to our kings and amaKhosi under whom this nation has grown with tenacity from strength to strength. The father of the Zulu Nation, King Shaka ka Senzangakhona, is the cornerstone of this remembrance. Upon his headship the generations past have built our nation according to the blueprint of his outstanding leadership. The name of King Shaka has come to represent for us more than a visionary man and more than a leader of great stature. The name of King Shaka has become synonymous with our might, our unity and our identity. Therefore, as we celebrate his life today, we truly celebrate the complete essence of who we are.

Throughout the years, we have gathered in this way to hear the message of Zulu pride. We have left this place with the assurance of our unity and the conviction that our future can be forged into prosperity, stability and collective goodwill. Today, I wish for us to leave this place with a renewed sense of who we are and where we are headed as a nation. I want us to look at our future course through the eyes of our past successes. As we seek our destiny ahead, let us acknowledge the full body of history which lies behind us. I believe that we are able to etch from this meeting continued hope, continued unity and continued good leadership.

In this spirit, it is my privilege to introduce our present King, whose shoulders bear the burden of representing our past and consolidating our past, present and future experience. Our kings and amaKhosi have assumed this great task since the beginning of recorded history. The leaders who have guided and represented our nation throughout generations of Zulus accept to become the embodiment of our collective spirit. I myself have felt the weight of this burden. Yet those who lead, do so in response to a call which echoes from the depth of our past, far into the unknown passage of our future. This is the call that speaks of our role within the context of our country and our world. It is the role that the Zulu Nation must accept to fulfil, because our greatness, influence and presence demand our good judgement, our moral contribution and our leadership.

The Zulu Nation is in a position to shape South Africa. We have done so in the past, changing the landscape through the might of our warriors and the wisdom of our kings. We have done so by realising King Shaka’s vision of inclusiveness, whereby those whom we conquered could be assimilated within us. In this way, we have grown in numbers and strength. Through King Shaka’s visionary leadership, the Zulu Nation indeed placed a footprint on the landscape of South Africa which cannot be erased. Through our battles with the colonial British empire, we changed the course of this country’s history. We maintained our own identity in the face of powers who tried to strip us of our sense of dignity and belonging. We gave an outstanding moral example to all those who faced oppression and the gross human rights abuses of colonialism, apartheid, discrimination and enforced social divisions. We have been shaped and have evolved through the trials, failures and victories of our past, and we emerge now as a nation intent on the recognition of our identity, passionate about inclusiveness and fully capable of giving a contribution of moral leadership.

Today, even as we celebrate our Zulu Nation, we recognise that we are one among many peoples who collectively constitute South Africa. The recent political shifts in our country since 1994 and the complete transformation of our body of law to reflect democracy, equality and human dignity, have tilled the soil of South Africa, uprooting and removing the choking weeds of apartheid and segregation on the grounds of race, culture, language, history, extract, ethnicity and tradition. The soil of our country has been carefully prepared and lies ready for us to sow a new crop. Whatever we sow in this season of history, will bring the harvest we experience in years to come. That harvest will reproduce itself, so that far into our future, beyond the lifetimes of all of us, the reality of a new South Africa will reflect what this generation sowed. We are faced with a responsibility of unquestionable magnitude. We will be held accountable. We will be remembered as the generation in whose hands the opportunity to make or break South Africa was delicately placed.

I believe that seeds have already been sown into this fertile soil, some by the hands of leaders and some by the hands of ordinary people. Many have sown goodwill, personal commitment and an individual contribution to establishing moral regeneration and productivity. Sadly, many others have sown criminality, a lack of respect for authority, disorder and fear. Our national psyche has been affected by the horrors and the tragedies we witness throughout South Africa on a daily basis. The rapes, the murders, the rampage of HIV/AIDS, the high levels of unemployment and widespread poverty, have taken their toll on our reserves of optimism. We are like a bruised reed, tossed and battered by the winds of social evils. Yet, we are not broken. Our spirit has not been broken. The Zulu Nation rose time and time again, defeated in battle, but not broken. No army has ever been able to conquer our spirit. I am encouraged to see that there is a remnant who maintain hope for South Africa, just as through every battle we fought as a Zulu Nation there was a remnant who would not allow the Zulu spirit to die.

It is people such as this whom I cry out for. Our country’s leadership, like the historical leadership of our own Zulu Nation, knows the value of the few who will not allow our spirit to be broken. Our leadership is now in a position to sow seeds into the fertile soil of South Africa to secure a good harvest. I believe that our leaders cannot sow a better seed than that of the remnant, in whose eyes the light of the miraculous still dances. The men and women who work daily to reconcile our people, to increase productivity, to change attitudes and regenerate our moral fibre, must be sown into our nation to produce a harvest. I believe that here in Hlabisa today, gathered in this very venue, are men and women such as these. You are the people of goodwill upon whom King Shaka built our nation against the odds of colonialism and harsh opposition. You are the people with whom the leadership of South Africa can build against the odds of our present reality.

The men and women of goodwill within our Zulu Nation have a unique contribution to offer. The harvest from their efforts will be one of integrity, unity and cultural identity which respects pluralism rather than demanding homogeny. Our nation’s contribution is one which the future South Africa cannot do without. I believe that anyone is capable of choosing to become a person of goodwill. It is the people of goodwill who assist others on a daily basis to fulfil their own potential, regardless of the obstacles or circumstances. It is these people who can help to create a society in which compassion, respect and equal dignity become cornerstones of our human interaction. This is critically important in respect of the scourge of HIV/AIDS. People with HIV/AIDS need to be assisted and empowered by other people’s right attitude towards them. We must deal with the ignorance, intolerance and fear associated with this disease, by exposing the facts and changing our own attitudes.

When one tests HIV positive, the harsh reality of death weighs heavily. Through acceptance, assistance, nurturing and care, however, this tragedy can be made bearable. In fact, HIV positive people can enjoy many years of health and a good quality of life if they are prepared to take responsible action. It is important to develop a healthy lifestyle, including balanced meals and an exercise programme. One must avoid alcohol and drugs, which will further weaken the body. Immune boosters, supplements, vitamins and Nevirapine for those women who are pregnant, are all important choices. These things will deal with and possibly eliminate the physical suffering and assist to create emotional well-being as well. Above all, however, is the responsibility of taking precautions which do not allow HIV/AIDS to spread.

As I stand here today in Hlabisa and look out across this gathering of mighty men and women of the Zulu Nation, my heart aches to know that one in four of us is HIV positive. That is the harsh reality. If we allow this disease to spread unchecked through our nation, it will decimate a greater number of our people than any war which our ancestors ever rose to fight. In fact, HIV/AIDS has the potential to reduce our nation faster than King Shaka was able to grow it. Whatever work our people poured into the strengthening of our nation and whatever each generation’s contribution to our present unity, stability and might, our people will be reduced by a quarter within the next twenty years.

When our children walk in the prosperity and stability of the future South Africa, I want them to look back and pinpoint the contribution of the Zulu Nation, saying that we sowed the seed of reconciliation, unity and pluralism. I want future South Africans to say that the Zulu Nation of today just would not give up, but made an unprecedented commitment to stop HIV/AIDS and actually stopped it. This will be the future South African miracle. I want future South Africans to also be Zulus. Our nation has had a place of prominence in Southern Africa’s history since time immemorial. At this juncture of our South African history, we have a vital role to play. There is no reason why the future of our country should be without a mighty Zulu Nation. We cannot allow HIV/AIDS to destroy us. We did not allow factional conflicts to weaken us. We did not allow colonialism to take our identity. We did not allow apartheid to break our spirit and destroy our unity. Now is not the time for the Zulu Nation to show weakness.

Now is the time for us to find the remnant of people of goodwill among us and to catch their spirit of hope, enthusiasm and commitment to reconciliation. Let us stir a new wave of moral regeneration within the Zulu Nation. Let us honour the leadership of our kings and amaKhosi. Let us chase the vision of inclusiveness of King Shaka ka Senzangakhona, our nation’s founder. Let us choose to make the individual contribution to re-establishing the rule of law over the rule of man. Let us prioritise education for all our people. May the next generation thank God that we were committed to education, to community development, to the restoration of the moral fibre of our people, to providing a leadership of integrity, and to making a Zulu contribution which does this nation proud.

I am inspired by the opportunity which rests in our hands. I feel the thrill of its magnitude and the gravity of its potential. How good to be part of a nation which has a proud history, and which has the opportunity to create a future of equal greatness. Indeed, our tomorrow may be even greater than our past, if our contribution today matches our real ability. This nation has strong roots. We are grounded in the strength of our kings and amaKhosi. We have been built on the strength of our individual commitments to a greater collective entity to which we give our allegiance. This entity is the Zulu Nation, and today it is represented here in its King. It is therefore my great honour to present to you His Majesty, the King of the Zulu Nation. This year, our King celebrates 30 years on the throne of King Shaka. Except for King Mpande, none of the King's forebears reigned for that length of time. Once again, I congratulate His Majesty on the 30th anniversary of his enthronement.

May God preserve our nation’s unity. May God preserve our nation’s King.