NOVEMBER 24, 2001

I welcome the opportunity of meeting once again with the Greek community of South Africa to share in an event that expresses the vibrant spirit and close unity of this community. I wish to thank you for inviting me this year, as you have in previous years, to attend your Annual Ball, one of the highlights on the calendar of this community and one which I myself look forward to with great expectation. As always, it is a pleasure to immerse myself in a culture so rich in tradition, so festive in expression and so warm in its friendship. For several years I have had the honour of maintaining a dialogue with the government and people of the Republic of Greece. The Greek community of South Africa, while being wholly South African, retains its ties to Greece, bestowing on its posterity a double blessing of cultural insight and richness.

Likewise, South Africa is enriched by the presence of the Greek community in the fabric of our society. The historical backgrounds of the two countries, South Africa and Greece, are extremely different, but today in South Africa we have the benefit of a democratic system whose origin of birth, as we all know, is Greece. I believe that every generation makes a contribution to the character of a nation. The long history which is the foundation of this community is evident in its vastness of spirit. Much that has emerged from previous generations in Greece has not only moulded the Greek spirit, but indeed established world views upon which a great deal of civilisation has been established. I feel it important that our children learn world history, philosophy and art alongside the newer syllabus which focuses on technological development and progress. This is an invaluable gift which we dare not withhold.

I am not an old man in thought or deed. I welcome wholeheartedly the struggle within our country to progress more rapidly to meet the technological age where it is at in more prosperous countries throughout the world. In many fora I have spoken of the need to leapfrog this generation into the global village, so that we will not be left behind economically, technologically or socially. It has given me inestimable pleasure to officially open computer centres in largely rural areas, and also to see university students gaining greater access to and becoming more conversant with computers. Recognising the good in all this, I reserve one concern, and that is the possibility that our focus will shift so far in one direction as to discard another almost entirely. A generation which has lost an appreciation or even a comprehension of the arts and ancient philosophy, will have lost a great deal indeed.

I appreciate the Greek community for many of its aspects, not least of which is the solidarity which fails to diminish with each generation. There is a developed sense of community here, and family maintains its meaning. History and culture is passed directly from the older to the younger generation through the oldest medium known to man: spending time together and talking. At times I feel this is a lost art, particularly between generations. In my own Zulu culture, family likewise retains significance and the vast treasury of information and collective observation is conveyed to our children by word of mouth. I feel a strong conviction that we will suffer as South Africans if we allow schools to train our children in the ways of the future, while in our families we neglect to teach them the ways of the past. The past and the future are not separate entities. Whatever we choose to do tomorrow, tomorrow will without fail become yesterday, and we will build on what we know to reach out for what we have yet to discover.

Our world is changing. On September 11 world views were shaken and history altered its presumed course. At times the events of our world change every perception and cause us to rethink every foundation upon which we have established today’s beliefs. In a world in which events such as these are happening more often and with a wider range of impact, it is essential that our younger generation feels its feet to be firmly planted on stable ground. My generation, in turning South Africa right side up, began to lay a stable foundation for the generations to come. Today our country is making every effort to establish the foundations of equality, social justice and human rights. If we fulfil our task with excellence, any challenge to these values will be rejected by our posterity.

However, I firmly believe that we must maintain a balance. We cannot teach rights without teaching responsibility, and responsibility will be meaningless unless we have secured the concept of unity, even in diversity. The well-known concept of ubuntu botho expresses much of what we need to achieve in South Africa. There must be a feeling that I am, by virtue of those around me. That does not mean necessarily that I must receive my identity from my peers, for individualism is surely as noble a pursuit as equality. Yet it does imply that I cannot maintain an isolated prosperity in the midst of poverty, or that I may live by my own rules rather than accepting the rule of law. Such sense of community and of being interwoven, can only be established from person to person. The mother teaches her children. The grandfather teaches his son. Within family and community the younger generation learns by osmosis the strong ties which bind us, and the strength which these ties bestow.

I am deeply encouraged when I attend events of this nature to see a community united in celebration, joviality and purpose. I know that the strength of the Greek community flows directly from the value it places on unity. I have always admired this community, and I take great pleasure in becoming a part of its life. My words on this occasion have perhaps been more sombre than befits such a festive time of dancing and friendship. Yet it is because I consider my friendship with this community both valuable and deep that I speak my heart, and know that my concerns will be the concerns of this community, and surely the concerns of this generation. It is said so often that the words seem trite, but our children are indeed the future. We have poured so much passion and so much energy into transforming South Africa, that the crown of our years would be to see our posterity capable of negotiating the benefits for themselves.

As we continue to enjoy good company and exceptional entertainment, I wish to thank this community for the contribution it has made towards creating a South Africa we may take pride in. May your businesses prosper, your families know health and your posterity inherit the fruits of your labour. I thank you for this time we could spend together reaffirming the strength of our friendship. It is my fondest hope that 2002 will see our dialogue continue and our friendship grow.