The Deputy President of the Republic of South Africa, His Excellency Mr Jacob Zuma; the Deputy Minister of Home Affairs, the Honourable Lindiwe Sisulu; members of the Royal House present; amaKhosi present; members of the National Parliament; members of the provincial Legislature; Chairpersons and members of Regional Councils; Councillors, Indunas, ladies and gentlemen.

It gives me great pleasure to be part of the celebration of this important moment in which our government is delivering shelters to the victims of the floods. It is for me a moment of great pride and relief, and it is so for many reasons. In the first place, this is one of those occasions on which we collegially celebrate the sense of social solidarity which should always shape, motivate and direct both our communities and the activities of government alike.

Social life should be organised around the principle of helping those in greatest need and the main function of government should remain that of assisting those who are confronted by calamities of all types. Terrible and catastrophic events, like the floods, are beyond the control of man and are natural occurrences against which little can be done. However, the reaction to these natural occurrences is totally within the control of man, and it is our responsibility to reach out and assist the victims.

It is a particular source of pride for me that my colleague, the Deputy Minister of Home Affairs was chosen by the President to head the interdepartmental efforts aimed at providing relief to the victims of floods. The shelters which are being provided on this occasion are in compliance with a new vision of government which has been shaped by and entrenched in our Constitution. Our Constitution dictates how our government should behave and what its purposes are. For the first time in our history, our Constitution entrenches the notion that it is the responsibility of government to provide shelter to those who do not have it. I say this with particular pride and satisfaction because I see today the fulfilment of a long process which began almost ten years ago.

Obviously, what is being delivered today is but a drop in the ocean of need of our people. However it is a step in the right direction which brings us a little further ahead in the long march towards greater development. It takes time from when the direction is set in our Constitution and in our laws, to when actual steps may be taken to implement the legislative and constitutional provisions and to begin marching in the right direction. However, on this occasion we can be reassured that our government is indeed moving in the right direction. We must maintain our impetus, vigilance and leadership to ensure that government moves at an ever faster pace to reach out for all the many people in need, beginning from those who need shelter and reaching out to those who need employment, social security and stability within their communities.

We have mapped the direction of our government’s actions in a process which began almost ten years ago and today we can reap some of the fruits of what we sowed then. I reiterate this because it is for me a source of pride to think that in this province we were the first in South Africa to identify the need to entrench in a constitution the right to shelter. The first time that anyone entrenched the right to shelter in a constitutional or legislative document in South Africa was in the constitution of the State of KwaZulu Natal, which the Legislative Assembly of the erstwhile KwaZulu Government adopted on December 1, 1992, as its firm constitutional proposal within the negotiation process from apartheid to democracy. Once stated within the debate, that proposal became compelling, as the right to shelter was absorbed first in the interim and then in the final Constitution.

At the time, some people criticised me stating that it was unnecessary and unreasonable for a constitution to impose on government the responsibility of providing shelter to those who have no means of protecting themselves from rain, cold and wind. I have always believed that giving people the right to vote is important, but even that is not sufficient when people continue to suffer because of a lack of basic assistance from their communities and their government. In our culture, we have always believed that communities must practice social solidarity and ensure that no one is left behind in the isolation of poverty and despair. It has been our culture, philosophy and intention to ensure that our government is indeed a projection of our communities, as the community of all communities, and as such operates on the basis of the same imperatives of social solidarity.

We have today begun a process which is far from being completed. As we look back, we can take pride in our achievements, but as we look forward, we can clearly see that we have walked but a few steps ahead on a very long journey still awaiting us. We will succeed in moving ahead on this journey only if we walk the road ahead together, in unity of purpose, and in a shared effort. We cannot succeed unless all segments of our population and all segments of our communities, and all segments of our province walk together in unity of leadership, in unity of purpose, and in unity of vision.

For many decades I have pursued in this province and in this region the long-term vision that one day prosperity will reach all areas of South Africa, including Mkhuze. It might be difficult for us to imagine how, one day, even this area will be fully developed and will enjoy levels of prosperity comparable to those of the more affluent areas of South Africa. It is difficult to think about a rosy future when the present remains so uncertain and when just yesterday we had to face the most horrendous disaster and the untold human suffering that it caused. However, it is on these occasions as we rise out of the most immediate predicament that we can and must dream of a better future. As we have managed to take one step forward, so we can take another thousand steps forward towards the realisation of our long-term vision.

This is the only way for us to walk the path ahead, by putting one foot ahead of the other, one step at a time, supporting the weakest among us on the strength of the strong. Today, the people of Mkhuze who have suffered such terrible tragedy are being given a new foundation by our government. I urge each of you not to rest on this foundation or stop at the little you have received. This community must keep moving, building on the foundations received today, until a sturdy structure appears under your own hands. In applying the principles of self-help and self-reliance, I believe that the people of Mkhuze can re-establish the measure of life they have lost, and see it improved upon and changed into something you can all be proud of.

Today, there is a sense of community solidarity constructed upon the knowledge that you have all shared a tragedy, you have all lost many things you cherished, and you have all lived in need. My greatest hope is that this sense of togetherness in desperation can turn around and become a driving force in creating solidarity of hope and determination to fully restore Mkhuze and its people. Together, you can indeed draw abreast of this hope and conquer the challenge confronting you. Mkhuze, as a small part of the whole of our country, may give the example to all of us that standing together, we may march forward with greater confidence in victory. I wish you well and encourage you to constantly forge ahead.


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