Address by Deputy Minister Ntombazana Botha at the opening ceremony of the Outward Bound International Convention held in Cape Town
Theme: “Being inspired by South Africa and Africa (Lessons from our journey, our history, our cultures, our processes)”
International representatives of Outward Bound
Representatives of Outward Bound South Africa
Honoured guests and friends gathered here today.
It is indeed a great pleasure and an honour for me to address you this morning and open this Outward Bound International Convention. Of course, at my age, it is also a privilege to address people who are far younger than I am, but who have a purpose in life - young people who are prepared to make a positive difference in their own life and in the lives of other people. This spirit of humanness is highly commendable. This is what we refer to as “Ubuntu” in South Africa.
I am particularly grateful to Don MacRobert who shared with me the amazing story of Outward Bound. I must confess that prior to meeting Don I was not aware of the existence of this great organisation that is doing such outstanding work in our country and in the world.
I would like to especially thank Outward Bound International for affording our country the opportunity to host the convention. It is the first such convention held on South African soil and we feel extremely privileged.
Many of you probably know the history of Outward Bound International much better than I. You will recall that Outward Bound International took a decision of great moral consciousness not operate in South Africa during the apartheid years when the people of this country were living under the most brutal discriminatory and oppressive laws.
I believe that was a wise decision that was guided by the ethics and morals which Outward Bound aims to inculcate in our young people all over the world today. Outward Bound took a stand against the injustices of an oppressive system of apartheid which systematically ruined the lives of many young people.
The apartheid system was characterised by an inferior education system for Africans, the segregation of people according to the colour of their skin, poor living conditions and limited or no career opportunities for people who were classified as non-whites. The majority of the population was dehumanised, so to speak. Outward Bound would, therefore, never have been able to operate under such inhuman conditions.
It was only in 1994, when we attained our freedom and all discriminatory laws were abolished, that Outward Bound South Africa was established. This year we are celebrating the 10 th anniversary of our Constitution and Bill of Rights, which is regarded as one of the most progressive Constitutions in the world. It is founded on the values of human dignity, equality, human rights and freedoms and this is, what I believe, Outward Bound is about.
On behalf of the Government of the Republic of South Africa and our Ministry and Department of Arts and Culture, and, indeed, on behalf of all the people of this country, I wish to extend a very warm welcome to all our international guests. Welcome to our beautiful and free South Africa.
For those of you who are visiting our beautiful country for the first time you will, no doubt, agree that the new South Africa is a far better place to live in and the most suitable venue for this and future Outward Bound Conventions. You will experience the warmth and hospitality of the South African people. (Abantu balapha banobuntu.) The weather conditions are perfect and the natural habitat is most appropriate for your outdoor adventures and experiential training. I am certain that the young participants in this programme will have lots of fun. Wish I was forty years younger!
I am sincerely appreciative of the work that Outward Bound is doing in South Africa. It complements, to a large extent, the programmes of our own government which seek to empower the youth of our country. Young people today are faced with many challenges and I dare say that they are facing much serious challenges than we did when we were their age. It is, however, heartening to see how, in a very practical way, through the Outward Bound experience, their lives are transformed to fulfil their most intimate and most valued dreams.
The mission of Outward Bound is “to inspire character development and self-discovery in people of all ages and walks of life through challenge and adventure, and to impel them to achieve more than they ever thought possible, to show compassion for others to actively engage in creating a better world”.
These objectives are very much in line with what our own government seeks to achieve through the programmes of the National Youth Commission and the National Youth Service.
The vision of the National Youth Commission is the creation of an enabling environment in which youth can realise their full potential and build a caring society. Its mandate, therefore, is to co-ordinate, promote and monitor youth development towards this end.
The National Youth Service, which is co-ordinated by the Presidency, is an overarching programme which engages young people in a disciplined process of providing a valued and necessary service to the community in which they live, while increasing their own skills, education and opportunities to generate income. The National Youth Service promotes greater civic consciousness among young people and encourages volunteerism. Government departments provide opportunities for these young people through learnerships, internships and skills training programmes.
All these initiatives are intended to address the social and economic challenges facing the youth of our country. Working collaboratively with Outward Bound South Africa and integrating our programmes would undoubtedly produce the desired outcome.
I am delighted and very pleased to learn that we have youth participating in the programmes of Outward Bound South Africa who come from diverse social and cultural backgrounds. This is a clear demonstration of their resolve to create a better life for themselves and for others despite the challenges and constraints that some of them may be confronted with.
Some of these young people come from environments of social deprivation where they are confronted, on a daily basis, by violence and crime, substance and alcohol abuse, poverty and unemployment, and diseases such as tuberculosis, cholera and AIDS. To transcend these challenges our youth need the sort of character development that Outward Bound focuses on; a programme that will equip them with skills to take informed decisions that shape the course of their lives.
In traditional societies these formative decisions are aided by transition rites or rites of passage or initiation. These are important steps which enhance the formative years of young people, preparing them for the next stage in life. I regard Outward Bound as a form of transition rite from one stage of life to the next having been adequately prepared, mentally, physically and spiritually, to face the world.
Unfortunately, in some parts of our country these traditions have become increasingly adulterated and sadly our young people are missing out on this rich cultural heritage. Having read the book written by Alex Hayley titled “Roots” many years ago, which was based on traditions and values in Gabon, I am convinced that we should not willy-nilly discard all traditions and cultural practices. We should identify and retain those traditions and practices that have sustained our communities over centuries and will further enhance our culture.
This should, invariably, be underpinned by the philosophy of “ubuntu”.
Archbishop Desmond Tutu captured the meaning of “ubuntu” very succinctly when he said: “Africans have this thing called UBUNTU. It is about the essence of being human; it is part of the gift that Africa will give the world. It embraces hospitality, caring about others, being able to go the extra mile for the sake of others. We believe that a person is a person through another person, that my humanity is caught up, bound up, inextricably, with yours. When I dehumanise you, I inexorably dehumanise myself. The solitary human being is a contradiction in terms and therefore you seek to work for the common good because your humanity comes into its own, in belonging”.
This statement certainly captures the theme and the spirit of this convention. By bringing young people together and providing them with a platform to share ideas, to exchange knowledge and best practices and to network, it has embraced this notion that ‘umuntu ngumuntu ngabantu’ - “a person is a person through other persons”.
The youth of today are the future leaders of our nation. We are pinning our hopes on them to build a better world. Through endeavours such as Outward Bound, initiatives by the private sector and other government interventions, we are hopeful that young people will embrace “ubuntu” and be encouraged to transform themselves, their circumstances and become fully actualised citizens of the world. If we fail to do this we will be failing our future leaders.
I have noted with appreciation that Outward Bound is already partnering with the National Youth Commission. My assumption is that this partnership will be extended to encompass the entire National Youth Service and thus impact on a greater number of young people. Together, we can and must improve the quality of life of all our people, particularly, our youth who, if unattended, will become marginal members of our society.
I hope that the sterling work that is done by Outward Bound will reach many areas in our country which are affected by violence, gangsterism, substance abuse and alcoholism, starting with this Province. A report of the Medical Research Council (1997-2004) indicates that the variety of drugs abused and the burden of drug use is greater in the Western Cape than in other provinces. This poses a very serious challenge for us as government and for the country as a whole.
How do we, collectively, turn this situation around? The experiential interventions that Outward Bound uses would be of tremendous value in areas such as the Western Cape, particularly as there are sometimes few alternatives that would otherwise constructively utilise the spare time of vulnerable and impressionable young people.
It is through the identification of the unlimited opportunities that have opened up for young people in our new democracy that can they harness their potential and rise above their current circumstances.
There are also numerous opportunities for young people through our bi-national cultural exchange programmes. Every cultural agreement that we have entered into with other countries incorporates youth development. These programmes provide opportunities for youth to visit and to learn about other countries, to share ideas and network with youth of other countries. It is also very pleasing to note that across the globe today young people move between cultures with relative ease, sometimes unhindered by language, as will be the experience at this convention.
By establishing Outward Bound in South Africa you have certainly made our work in the Department of Arts and Culture a little easier. The mandate of our department is to develop and preserve South African culture, to ensure social cohesion and nation-building. Our department is the custodian of South Africa’s diverse cultural, artistic and linguistic heritage. The programmes of Outward Bound complement our work and contribute meaningfully to the goals of nation-building and social cohesion, particularly in the notion of ‘ubuntu,’ which seeks to bring us all together as a people.
Lastly, I would like to suggest that we draw from our valuable traditions to inspire, in young people, the values that we hold dear. These values include an appreciation of diversity, inclusivity, love, respect, peace, forgiveness, reconciliation and most of all, ubuntu. These should be evident in the manner in which the young people of any nation conduct their lives. These values lay the foundation for young people to value themselves, their potential and their bodies. Some of the lessons we learnt as young people should be passed on to them. So, one of the tasks before us is to encourage the young people of today to love, respect and appreciate themselves in the same way, as we, their parents and grandparents, love, respect and appreciate them.
Every participant in this convention should be able to take home some of the tools which will be provided by the programmes and use them for their self-development and advancement.
It is, from this point onwards, the collective responsibility of Government, the private sector and civil society, to expand the reach of Outward Bound South Africa. We must begin to integrate and co-ordinate our work so as to make a marked impact. We must be more focused and protect that which we value most, the young people of our world by setting an example as adults and embodying the values we wish them to emulate. As the great Mahatma Ghandi once said, “You must be the change you wish to see in the world.”
I would like to thank all the companies that sponsored this convention, which include Anglo American, De Beers, African Bank and the National Lottery. Thank you to Bebe Stetson and also to the Outward Bound International board Members, Kelly O’Dea, Ben Phillips and Ian Wade for their presence, who have come all the way from the United States. And to Jacques De Jongh, Dris Naidoo, Julie Staub, Brenda Addington, Kobus Bester and Don MacRobert, thank you for organising this event.
Once again, to our international guests, a very warm welcome to South Africa and all the very best of fortune and success as you continue to do great work. Have fun and enjoy our South African cuisine – boerwors en styfpap, umngqusho and snoek, and may you have a very successful convention. God bless.
I now have the privilege and honour to declare this Convention opened.
I thank you.