Address by President Nelson Mandela at the centennial celebrations of the Hluhluwe-Umfolozi Park and Greater St Lucia Wetland Park, Hluhluwe Game Reserve, KwaZulu-Natal

30 April 1995

Minister of Environment Affairs and Tourism, and other Ministers;
Your Royal Highness, King Zwelethini;
Premier of the Province of KwaZulu-Natal;
Members of the Provincial Cabinet;
Members of the Provincial Parliament;
Dr. Claude Marten, Director-General of the World-Wide Fund for Nature;
Distinguished guests;
Ladies and gentlemen.

It is a great pleasure for me to be in these surroundings - so natural, so refreshing and so green. In an age when humanity is threatened by countless environmental hazards, it gives one hope to know that we still have such places in our country.

I would therefore, like to express my heartfelt gratitude to the organisers of these celebrations for the invitation extended to us to share this fresh breeze with you.

Today the Hluhluwe-Umfolozi Park and Greater St Lucia Wetland Park are the pride of our nation. We hope that St Lucia will soon be recognised by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site.

We can take pride as a nation that we have managed to preserve nature and wildlife in the way that we see here. We would, however, be failing in our duty if we did not single out King Shaka, whose own approach to the land between the two Umfolozi Rivers, laid the basis for the preservation of this area.

This, however, is not an occasion for us simply to congratulate ourselves. There are also challenges we must face.

Our resolve to preserve the rhino and other rare species, and to keep the Hluhluwe-Umfolozi Park as a foremost home for Africa's rhinos remains unshakable. But we know that, throughout our continent and especially in our region, poachers are on the rampage. They must be stopped on their tracks.

Our efforts will, however, inevitably fail if they don't enjoy the full support of local communities. If these parks and game reserves are to become part of our national heritage, their administration and preservation cannot remain a preserve of the Parks Board alone.

The people of this area must be involved. They should see them also as their heritage to preserve for future generations.

Local and provincial government must also be involved. I am happy to note the presence in our midst of the Amakhosi of this province. Their co-operation, too, is vital.

Tourism forms part of our strategy for sustained economic growth and development. Already more than a million tourists visit the Greater St Lucia Wetland Park annually. With South Africa's acceptance into the world, this park can become one of the showpieces of our continent.

But for that to happen we will have to understand that competition within the tourism industry is stiff. There are many beautiful and interesting places on our continent and elsewhere. We must therefore adopt a professional approach, upgrade skills of employees and market ourselves aggressively.

If approached within the framework of the Reconstruction and Development Programme, these efforts will make a significant contribution to bringing a better life for all. Not only will it play its part in generating national economic growth. More directly, it will help improve the living standards of rural communities.

Ladies and Gentlemen;

During the past week we celebrated Freedom Day, the first anniversary of our democracy. We have as a nation been taking stock of what we have accomplished and what still needs to be done.

It was a year which was largely devoted to establishing the capacity to improve living conditions. And with the machinery in place, the implementation of plans will proceed at a faster pace.

We have been able to make progress largely because of the stability which democracy has brought with it. But while political violence has become a thing of the past in most of our country, in parts of KwaZulu-Natal the people still live under its shadow.

Ensuring that there is peace in every corner of the province is one of the particular challenges which faces us. Another is to ensure the success of the local government elections in November, which will complete the democratisation of our country.

May I take this opportunity to appeal to all those here who represent different aspects of our society to join hands with the Government of National Unity in achieving these objectives. Politicians, provincial authorities and Amakhosi should do what we can to combat political violence within our communities. We should all co-operate in building a rural partnership aimed at improving the lives of the people.

Our success as a nation depends, in no small measure, on the conservation of areas such as these parks, whose centenary we celebrate today. It demands conditions in which every sector of society can join hands to make a unique treasure accessible to our nation and its visitors, and to ensure that future generations will have the same privilege.

I thank you.

Source: Nelson Mandela Foundation