Speech by Deputy Minister Pahad at the Launch of the Department of Foreign Affairs Annual Christmas Party for the Underprivileged Children at Pretoria Zoo, 27 September 2001

Director: South African National Zoological Gardens


Honoured Guests

Ladies and Gentleman

I to would like too warmly welcome you to this evening and thank you for accepting our invitation.

I wish to thank Willie Labuschagne for availing these wonderful facilities to us tonight, and to thank him and his personnel for the wonderful experience that has been afforded us to take in the sights and sounds of Zoo under African skies.

The collection of animals that we saw tonight, in a way, depicts as we are gathered here tonight representing our various countries, a "united nations of animals". Fortunately, unlike the animals we have just seen, we are not caged, but are able to enjoy the freedom of movement and association. Through this interaction we are also able to exchange and celebrate our cultural diversity.

Tonight, we are celebrating the launch of the Annual Christmas Party hosted by the Department of Foreign Affairs for underprivileged children in Pretoria. This year, will be the fifth consecutive year that we host this function in conjunction with the personnel of Sunnyside Police Station.

Over the years, while we have seen the event grow from strength to strength, we have also witnessed the increasing need of these children. At the Christmas Party, we provide games and entertainment for the children, as well as provide each child with a meal, an ice cream, cooldrink, and of course a Christmas present.

At the Party hosted in the Zoo two years ago, one of the supervisors of the shelters that house these children painted the following picture for us. While the children had travelled less than 20 kilometres, a number of them were of the opinion that they had travelled out of Pretoria. One of the children in the group, a 10 year old boy, was experiencing his first Christmas Party. The gift that he received was the first Christmas gift that he had ever received. For the organisers, it is heart warming to hear such accounts, but it is actually frightening when we take stock of the reality of the extent of the deprivation that some children have to endure.

Having witnessed the events of 11 September 2001, much thought, debate and energy has been expended on determining and articulating appropriate responses to the acts committed. However, limited thought has been spared to contemplate the social impact of this event, especially the impact on the children.

It is accepted that the majority of the persons who are unaccounted for, or who have been confirmed dead, are adults. This therefore means that a number of children are now deprived of the love and affection of the at least one parent. A large number of divorces are attributed to the "loss of love and affection". We can therefore say that a number of children have been divorced from a parent. Apart from the emotional or psychological impact that this event has had on the children, we also need to consider the effect of the sudden, violent removal of a loved member on the social, or family structures. Numerous studies have identified the disintegration of the family structure as a contributory factor to juvenile delinquency and the phenomenon of street children as we see around us on a daily basis.

The use of the events of 11 September 2001 was not intended to re-open raw wounds, but merely to illustrate how easily the actions of adults can impact the lives of society’s future adults.

I am proud to announce that this year, the Annual Christmas Party will once again be held at the Pretoria Zoo on 16 December 2001. In the coming months, the Zoo will be running a number of programmes aimed at gathering toys that can be presented as gifts to these underprivileged children.

Next weekend, a number of you will be participating in the International Fair on the lawns of the Union Buildings. There you will find a stall where you can also pledge a donation towards the Christmas Party, and then decorate the Christmas tree with your pledge. Some of the organisers of the Christmas Party are busy distributing, or have already distributed, pledge cards. Please feel free to complete the pledge card and hang your pledge on the Christmas tree over here. (Select one or two individuals in the audience and urge them to complete their pledge cards.) You do not need cash or a cheque book in your pocket tonight to complete the pledge card. Merely indicate the extent of your pledge, and we will call on you closer to the Christmas Party to collect your pledge.

An event like this is not possible without the contribution of sponsors. As we wait for pledges to be made, let me take the opportunity to extend a couple of words of thanks.

To our guests who took the time out to attend this function despite their heavy schedules.
To Willie Labuschagne and his team, thank you for the marvellous venue, a unique experience of the Zoo, and, if one can go by the aromas wafting past, a delicious meal.
To Volvo, (jokingly) thank you for the donation of these cars, which we can offer as, prizes to lucky guests tonight. For your generous contributions I wish to extend a special word of thanks for making it possible for us to enjoy a wonderful evening in a wonderful venue.
To the team who put all of this together, we all need to express our heartfelt thanks.

In conclusion, we as privileged adults need to take responsibility for lesser privileged children in our community. I urge you to pledge generously for the Annual Christmas Party to be held at the Zoo on 16 December 2001.

I thank you and wish you enjoy tonight’s function.

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