PRINCE MANGOSUTHU BUTHELEZI MP
PRESIDENT OF THE INKATHA FREEDOM PARTY AND
TRADITIONAL PRIME MINISTER TO THE ZULU MONARCH AND NATION
Montecasino, Johannesburg: 21 August 2017
Thank you to Mr Paul Dutton and the Game Ranger Association of Africa for their nomination, and thank you to the sponsors and patrons who make these Awards possible, not least the South African Department of Environmental Affairs.
I am honoured by this recognition of my life’s work in conservation. But I’m far more gratified that I didn’t win. Because the fight for our rhino must be taken up by the next generation. As much as the conservationists and patriots of my generation did, this fight is no longer ours. This is your fight now.
All that I have done over the past six decades to protect our natural heritage has been done with an eye on the future. I have keenly felt this responsibility, first as a traditional leader and then as a leader in politics and governance.
I am proud of the successes of the past. I am proud of how we managed to bring rhino back from near extinction in the seventies, securing their survival and populating parks throughout Africa. I am proud of the successes of the Tembe Elephant Park which I founded in KwaZulu Natal, and which is now a safe haven for our rhino as well.
I am proud to have established South Africa’s first Department of Nature Conservation, and – of course – I am proud of every award I received; because when I started out as a conservationist I was widely mocked for caring more about animals than I did about people.
When a country is waging a liberation struggle, giving attention to wildlife is seldom considered a priority. But to me, it was important. Because I wanted more than a political victory for South Africa. I wanted a rich inheritance.
As many victories and successes as we enjoyed, the fight is not over. Indeed, when it comes to conservation, the fight is heating up. Where I risked my reputation, conservationists now risk their lives.
We honour wildlife activists like Wayne Lotter who have fought against poaching at the cost of their lives. And we honour the men and women who still go out and fight, even as their colleagues fall.
These are the heroes of this generation. It is right that we honour them. I am therefore proud beyond measure to congratulate Mr Jabu Qayiso on winning tonight’s award.
I thank you for continuing this invaluable fight.