LAUNCH OF TOILET FACILITIES AT
EZIDWADWENI, MAHLABATHINI DISTRICT


REMARKS BY
MANGOSUTHU BUTHELEZI, MP
, MINISTER OF HOME AFFAIRS
INKOSI OF THE BUTHELEZI CLAN AND
CHAIRMAN OF THE HOUSE OF TRADITIONAL LEADERS
(KWAZULU NATAL)

EZIDWADWENI : APRIL 30, 2001

I have taken time off my heavy schedule of duties in the national government and matters of state to attend this delivery of toilets to this area because I really believe that this is not a trivial matter. The delivery of toilets to this area is a matter of importance which I wish to underscore with my presence.

I have also chosen to attend this event because it has been a long time since I have had the opportunity of visiting this region of my traditional authority and spending some time with its people. I used to come here quite often and it has been some time since I was last here. This has been one of the regions in which I have been spending time since the early stages of my work as the Inkosi of this area. I remember that I used to come to this area soon after I was first installed as an Inkosi and before I got involved in the political arena and became a servant of much broader constituencies than my own people in my own traditional authorities.

I somehow regret that my having assumed the care of all the Zulu people and of the greater interests of the country, has not allowed me to spend as much time and effort as I would have wished to with my own people in this region. I regret enormously that for a long time I have not had a single opportunity to be with all of you. Therefore, this to me is a very special occasion in which we may rekindle the bonds of the ancient mystical union of all the people of the Buthelezi clan.

Therefore I was particularly pleased when I was informed that the Health Minister of KwaZulu Natal, the Honourable Dr Z.L. Mkhize, was coming to this region to deliver toilets to our people. His being here with us underscores the importance of promoting the practice of hygiene and adequate sanitation in our communities. This is not a new concern for our people. I remember that in the past we have already tackled this problem from our traditional authority in spite of the enormous limitations caused by our lack of resources and capacity. We can hold our heads high for our clairvoyance and for the initiatives we took. You will remember that we encouraged people to use cheap material available to them to build toilets and we developed programmes to teach them how to do it.

You will also remember that we backed these programmes of toilet building in our rural areas with some small fines and penalties against those who did not co-operate in the building of toilets or would not use them. At the time we were criticised, but indeed on this occasion the position taken by our traditional authorities is clearly vindicated. The Minister of Health is with us today to distribute toilets as one of the ways in which to prevent further cases of cholera epidemics. Cholera is an epidemic infectious disease which kills people. One of its main sources is the contact between human faeces and water drunk by people. Cholera is a small bacteria, which like all bacteria cannot be detected by the human eye, which grows and develops in human faeces and contaminates the water which people may drink.

Therefore, for many years our traditional authority did what it could to compel people to utilise basic sanitation practices which would avoid the contamination of drinking water with human and other faeces, such as the use of toilets. This is something very important that we need to continue to harp on. We must also develop more educational programmes to teach our people the basic facts about hygiene and sanitation.

Most of the diseases and ailments which afflict us can be prevented. They are indeed the consequence of our actions and failure to take the necessary precautions. Our people must learn to think about their health when they are healthy, not only when they become sick. Preventative medicine is about taking measures to avoid becoming sick. The most important of such measures is to avoid exposing themselves to sources of infection. Therefore, it is important that people learn personal hygiene and practice it on a daily basis. It is also important that we create an environment which is sanitary and clean. The delivery of toilets which we are witnessing today is an important step in the right direction. I am very thankful to the donor who provided funding for these toilets realising their importance in preventing the further spread of cholera.

Sanitation has become an important concern of all levels of government. Our constitution spells out the right of every South African to live in an environment which is sanitary and has access to water. It will take a long time before the State will be able to fulfil this constitutional right. Nonetheless, my colleague, Mr Ronnie Kasrils, the national Minister of Water Affairs, is - like all of us - extremely concerned about the conditions in which people live when they have no running water available, nor sanitation such as septic tanks or sewers. He is working very hard to bring about better conditions and this matter is very high on our agenda in the central government in which I am the Minister of Home Affairs. Our Cabinet has developed the most major programme in the history of South Africa to deliver water to people and as time goes by, more and more people will be reached by running water. It takes time, but it will happen.

Today it is a small step we are taking in this direction. It is a step long overdue which brings our people a little closer to benefits that other people have enjoyed for a long time. It is remarkable to think that a toilet is indeed a complex invention which relies on sophisticated principles of hydraulic physics which pulls the dirty water from the top towards the bottom, in a fashion which then enables it to be replenished with fresh water falling on top of it. This simple and yet complex mechanism has been known and used by mankind for 2,000 years as it was invented by the ancient Romans, and yet in spite of its simplicity and relatively low cost, is still not available to the majority of people on the planet.

The cost of bringing water and installing a sewerage system to service a simple toilet is still prohibitively high and yet it is what we as a government must focus on. The reticulation of water and sewerage is one of those basic infrastructures, such as roads, which should focus the priority attention of government as they are the base of the cycle of development. Moreover, recent epidemics have shown that over and above the reasons of development, sanitation must be a government imperative because we must protect the lives of our people from infection and epidemics.

It is amazing how each of us can make a profound difference in his or her life by changing the habits with which we conduct our lives in respect of personal matters of hygiene. I hope that this occasion offers to all of you the opportunity to ask questions and learn more about personal hygiene. It is your responsibility to get the facts and become informed. Become curious and open your minds to new knowledge so that you may discover the many invisible threats which may undermine your health and that of your children and even threaten your life. There are many things people can do to begin improving on their conditions of life. Many of them require money and resources we do not have. But a few of them can be done simply, such as keeping our hands clean and avoiding contaminating our water and food. Therefore I hope that the launch of these toilet facilities can be the beginning of a new cycle of health and hygiene awareness in the community of Ezidwadweni and that we can turn a new page in our constant journey towards a better future.

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