STATEMENT BY: THE HON. MR NAREND SINGH MPP
MINISTER OF EDUCATION AND CULTURE; KWAZULU-NATAL


THANKSGIVING FUNCTION IN HONOUR OF HIS HOLINESS, THE SPIRITUAL LEADER OF THE
DIVINE LIFE SOCIETY OF SOUTH AFRICA - SRI SWAMI SAHAJANANDA AND THE MINISTER
OF HOME AFFAIRS - THE HON. PRINCE MANGOSUTHU BUTHELEZI

Durban: 3 February 2004

Welcome to this very important Media Launch. About thirty years ago, His Holiness the Spiritual Leader of the Divine Life Society of South Africa - Sri Swami Sahajananda - went on a pilgrimage to India. On this pilgrimage he was touched to see many children who were lining the streets begging for food. 

This pathetic sight planted a commitment in his heart that, on his return to South Africa, he would collect funds and send them to these needy children in India. However, when he was back home, he felt a very strong urge which redirected his focus from India to his very own country - South Africa. 

As if a voice was talking to him, Sri Swami realized that it would be unfair to help the children he had seen in miles away in Inda while all around him were his fellow country people who were as suffering from poverty. He then decided to send a sum of R25 000 to the then Chief Minister of KwaZulu - the Hon. Dr Mangosuthu Buthelezi - for a school to be built at Mahlabathini.

Instead of taking the money, Dr Buthelezi asked the Divine Life Society to build the school themselves since the School Committee had no such experience.

That was how the partnership between His Holiness Swami Sahajananda and the Hon. Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi was born. That partnership developed and grew in strength for over thirty years and has benefited even the current KwaZulu-Natal Department of Education and Culture.

In the past thirty years the partnership between Sri Swami and Dr Buthelezi has led to the building of about 120 schools along the length and breadth of KwaZulu-Natal with a bias towards the rural areas. In addition, the Divine Life Society has been involved in several community projects such as clinics, care centers, handicraft centers, agricultural projects and so forth.

Ladies and gentlemen, I believe that such selfless commitment has to be applauded. I believe that no one who loves development would dispute that indeed we must pay tribute to these great sons of the soil.

The 120 shcools stand as irrefutable evidence of the commitment the two leaders had to ensure that every child in KwaZulu-Natal had access to education. And their commitment to root out ignorance, illiteracy, lack of
skills and unemployment assumes an even more prominent significance when considered against the background of political circumstances obtaining at the time. 

Both Swami and Prince Buthelezi worked with and among the poorest communities especially in rural areas with virtually no financial support from the then National Party government. It is history that the National Party government politically isolated and marginalized this Province because of Dr Buthelezi's vehement opposition to independence ala Pretoria and whole policy of apartheid.

These were the circumstances within which they began this partnership to do for their people what the then government had deliberately neglected to do.

As Minister of Education and Culture in this Province, I have realised that we owe these great leaders a debt of gratitude. We owe them a debt of gratitude because - had they not taken the initiative - we as a Province would have started on a far weaker position. The backlogs that we have in education would have been far worse; millions of the people of this Province - some of whom have come to play very significant roles in the life of the country - would not have been able to progress to where they are today.

Ladies and gentlemen, even though Dr Buthelezi is no longer the Chief Minister of KwaZulu the partnership they built is still growing stronger.

Most of you are aware for instance that the Divine Life Society is among the three organizations with which I signed Service Agreements last year to speed up the building of schools. In addition, the Divine Life Society has announced that they will spend about R15-million this year to build 40 schools in KwaZulu-Natal.

Against this background, I wish to take this opportunity to invite all media in KwaZulu-Natal to participate in the Thanksgiving Ceremony we have planned for the two leaders. Above that, I issue a clarion call to all the people of this Province, especially the youth, schools and communities that benefited from these noble endevours, to join my Department as we pay tribute to the two leaders in a function which is scheduled for:

  • Sunday; 08 February 2004
  • La Mercy Stadium
  • 10: 00