Closing remarks by Deputy Minister Ntombazana Botha at the Phelophepha Health Train, Gala Dinner and Auction, Jumeirah Carlton Towers Hotel, Knightsbridge, London, UK

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24 May 2008

High Commissioner, Ms Lindiwe Mabuza
Honourary Counselors to SA
Ambassadors
Representatives of Companies as well as Government
Ladies and Gentlemen

Indeed it's been a very good evening and Good evening to all of you. My name is Ntombazana Botha, SA Deputy Minister of Arts and Culture. I bring greetings from the people of South Africa.

Ladies and gentlemen, what you have just seen and experienced is what we would like to share with the rest of the world in terms of our heritage which has been carried out from generation to generation. We are proud of who we are. You have just been exposed to traditional creative expressions which have been transformed into current fashion trends. The catwalk displayed diverse cultures, namely Ndebele, Xhosa, Zulu, Tsonga and Sotho amongst others. In South Africa we recognize that culture is not static but dynamic, hence the fusion of tradition with modern designs. Despite the fact that we were deprived as a nation from competing and participating in these opportunities globally, as South Africans we have never lost our creativity and dynamism. The strength of our creativity lies in the diversity of our cultures. The future of our people looks bright. As you have seen, Meropa Heritage is proudly South African initiative aimed at promoting SA culture through cosmopolitan African fashion designs and outfits.

The Meropa Heritage is linked to our intervention of creating jobs and developing skills popularly known as the Accelerated and Shared Growth Initiative for South Africa (ASGI-SA). ASGI-SA is an economic intervention of a range of initiatives aimed at removing obstacles that hinder economic growth. It also deals with challenges of ensuring that South Africa raises its economic growth to the average of at least 4,5% in the next five years and to about 6% by 2014.

The Meropa Heritage initiatives like many others have assisted government greatly to pursue its mandate of reducing poverty and eradicating unemployment. Central to our efforts in meeting the Millennium Development Goals (MDG's) lies the economic empowerment of women who make the majority of our population. The success of initiatives like Meropa Heritage will impact positively on the lives of ordinary South African women.

In the past five years, SA women have diligently and successfully managed to actively engage in various entrepreneurial initiatives. Many of these have included culture and heritage as we see here today. Meropa Heritage is a public private partnership supported by the department of Trade and Industry (the DTI). Such a partnership is aimed at increasing locally manufactured products whilst further upgrading the skills, the expertise and the entrepreneurial capacity of women. The quality and the different types of designs you have seen here is what we want to and replicate throughout SA, particularly in our communities. It is because of these rural communities that we have learned that by investing in them we are investing in our economy.

The people and the government of South Africa has made a commitment to ensure that we encourage the preservation and the sustenance of culture and heritage and we promote its fusion through fashion. Certainly since fashion is loved by old and young, we also believe that this is the way to do it. The government and the people of South Africa have received numerous invitations to showcase these types of initiatives globally.

Our unique SA forms and motifs are really making a strong impression in the fashion world. Our fresh breath-taking styles and products continue to be appreciated and are finding a niche in the global market. There is an increasing demand for SA products particularly in the fashion industry. This is encouraging but also very challenging. We are penetrating a market that highly contested with big players such as Valentino, Gucci and Versace. We see the United Kingdom as a market that needs to be explored as we believe many people here appreciate our designs.

On behalf of the SA government I would like to thank you for all your support and more importantly, encourage you to assist us to find appropriate markets for these types of products. Through initiatives like these we believe many of our rural communities can be empowered economically. Special thanks to our High Commissioner Ms. Lindiwe Mabuza and her staff for all the efforts in continuing to put our country amongst the best. We also thank the women of South Africa, those present tonight and those back at home. Together with you, we want to explore the rest of the world.

I thank you.