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Message of Support By

Hon. Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi MP

Founder and President Emeritus of the Inkatha Freedom Party

Traditional Prime Minister of the Zulu Monarch and Nation

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Dear friends; as we gather in this peaceful, wide-open space in Nonoti, I am moved to greet you as I was taught by my friend, Sri Swami Sahajananda, by saying, “Namaskar”.

I am honoured to join you today as together we mark the global commemoration of Earth Day. We do this as responsible citizens of the world, cognisant of our own duty to protect the natural environment and create sustainable ways of living.

We inherited this responsibility from our parents, and our parents’ parents, whose lives had an impact on the environment, both positive and negative. Our generation, and more so your generation, has a keener awareness of this impact, which is often called an ecological footprint. Sadly, this awareness has grown out of the very clear signs that our planet’s health is ailing because of the choices, actions and inaction of its human citizens.

Earth Day is a way of raising awareness and enhancing activities that counteract the destruction, by changing the way we think and live. I am proud to celebrate Earth Day 2023 with people who share my heart for the environment, for sustainability and conservation.

Allow me therefore to thank Sri Mohanji, who joins us via livestreaming today, and our sister, Sulosh Pillay, of the Mohanji Foundation SA, who has welcomed a partnership between the Mohanji Foundation and the Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi Foundation, to plant citrus trees and provide water to the community of KwaDukuza.

I have been impressed by the benevolent work of the Mohanji Foundation, particularly through the Ammucare Charitable Trust which provides food to some of the most vulnerable families in this community.

I am deeply touched by the motivation behind the Ammucare Charitable Trust, through which Sri Mohanji honours the memory of his young daughter, Ammu, whom he tragically lost in a road accident. Having lost my own young daughter, Princess Mabhuku, to a road accident in 1966, I know how devastating it is to have a child suddenly taken.

It is a testimony to Sri Mohanji’s patience and faith that he endured such pain and birthed something beautiful out of it. This speaks to the very teachings of Shirdi Sai Baba, to whom the temple here is dedicated.

The act of planting trees is itself an act of faith and patience. The trees we are planting today will take time to bear fruit, but they are an investment in the wellbeing of this community. It is appropriate to the theme of Earth Day 2023, which urges us to “Invest in Our Planet”. The intention is to accelerate the transition to an equitable and prosperous green economy.

When we talk about creating a green economy, people often think of it as something that only rich western countries can achieve. But the truth is that we in Africa live closer to the land than anyone. We understand how utterly dependent we are on the continued productivity of the land, and the continued wellbeing of our environment. Our land, water, plants and animals are, quite literally, our lifeblood.

The difficulty in creating buy-in to concepts like recycling and waste reduction, in our own communities, is that so many people are hungry, without an income, and dependent on social grants. We see cities as golden hubs of hope, while the rural economy is increasingly abandoned.

This is not a new challenge to conservationists. When I first began speaking to people about the need to set aside land for game reserves, the idea of conservation had not yet become fashionable. This was in the nineteen fifties, seventy years ago!

Our people in KwaZulu were starved for land because of the reprehensible polices of apartheid. So, it was not easy to make them understand that some pieces of land needed to be reserved for animals.

But I was inspired by the knowledge that my forebears, King Shaka and my maternal great grandfather King Cetshwayo, had game reserves. They were not fenced in reserves, but there were rules about hunting in Zulu society. Hunting was only allowed in winter and animals which still suckled their lambs could not be slaughtered.

If our people understood so many generations ago that sustainability was the key to protecting the future, surely we, with all the benefit of hindsight, should grasp the urgent need for environmental sustainability today. And if our grandparents and great grandparents could embrace the need for conservation under the harsh conditions of forced poverty, underdevelopment and injustice, surely, we can look beyond our circumstances to see what we can do for the sake of our planet.

It may be something as simple as planting a fruit tree.

And even if no one else is doing it, I challenge you to be the first. More than forty years ago, as Chief Minister of the KwaZulu Government, I established South Africa’s first government department focused on environmental conservation. The KwaZulu Bureau of Natural Resources was successful, back then, because it did exactly what innovative conservationists are doing today: it integrated conservation into the rural economy and linked conservation with rural development and upliftment.

I remember speaking at the first meeting of the KwaZulu Conservation Trust, which was created to secure funds for conservation, and telling the Trustees that, “The people of KwaZulu are starved for meaningful development.” Tragically, that is still the case today, despite almost thirty years of democratic governance.

Our people are starved for meaningful development. In fact, in the absence of meaningful development, our people are simply starving. The urgency of creating food security has been one of the driving passions of my life. Wherever I have gone across our beautiful country, for many, many years, I have urged people to become self-reliant by producing food.

I believe that subsistence farming is the way of future food security.

These messages that I have been driving for so many years need to continue beyond my lifetime. I am therefore immeasurably comforted by the knowledge that the Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi Foundation exists to carry my legacy forward. The objectives of the Foundation align with the objectives that I myself have pursued for a lifetime.

Self-help and self-reliance, the value of education, the strengthening of constitutionalism, making quality healthcare accessible to all, creating social and economic justice, promoting reconciliation, nation-building and peace. These are some of the pursuits that have defined my life.

And amongst these pursuits, conservation and environmental sustainability prominently feature.

It is thus wonderful for me to be with you on this special occasion, as we take steps towards food security in the community of Nonoti. The decision to plant citrus trees took into account the climate and soil conditions of this place, as well as the need for nutrition. We are, indeed, investing in the future.

May these trees thrive, so that they can feed not only the bellies, but the imagination of this community. Whenever you see the orchards here, and begin to see their fruit, my greatest hope is that it will inspire you to invest in the long-term future, because tomorrow can only be secured today.

I thank you.

Video: The SABC

Pictures: The Mohanji Foundation South Africa

This speech was delivered at the Earth Day 2023 Tree Planting and Water Supply Event jointly hosted by the Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi Foundation and the Mohanji Foundation South Africa on 23 April 2023 at the Mohanji Centre of Benevolence in Nonoti and published on on 25 April 2023.