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Acting Director-General, Mr Ishaam Abader's speech on the occasion of the planting ceremony for the Bapedi ancestral flower

23 November 2020

Your Majesty, King Thulare III of the Bapedi Nation and your delegation,

Deputy Chairperson of Freedom Park Council, Kgosi Mabalane

CEO of Freedom Park, Ms Jane Mufamadi

Delegations from the  National Lotteries Commission Limpopo, Ditsong Museum, Tshwane University of Technology and Tups City Agro-Economy Centre

Officials from Freedom Park and the Department of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries

Members of the media,

Ladies and gentleman,

Good morning


My name is Ishaam Abader and I have been requested to apologise on behalf of the Minister and the Deputy Minister as they are unfortunately unable to attend this morning due to other unavoidable commitments.

I feel honoured and indeed thrilled to stand here on behalf of the Minister who has been invited by His Royal Highness, His Majesty King Thulare the III, the King of Bapedi Nation, on the occasion of this historic and auspicious event.

What makes this occasion even more special is that it is taking place here, at Freedom Park, which is an icon for freedom and humanity in our country. The site reminds us of who we are as a nation, where we come from and our common destiny as a united, non-racial, and non-sexist society. 

South Africa is endowed with unique and superlative indigenous biological resources and is home to a variety of species which you can’t find anywhere else in the world.

As one of the 17 most megadiverse countries in the world, South Africa is home to 10% of the world’s plant species, 15% of the world’s coastal marine species and 7% of its reptiles, birds and mammals.

The biodiversity sector plays an important part in the economy of our country.  It employs in excess of 418 000 people, mostly in rural areas and the ecological services derived from our natural environment contribute R73 billion to the country’s GDP.  

Many of our communities are rich in traditional knowledge on the many uses of indigenous plants. Because of this, there is great scope for the country’s scientists and researchers to develop products in collaboration with these communities that can be manufactured in rural areas and sold across the world. This will not only empower marginalised peoples, but reverse the current trend where 70% of indigenous biological resources are exported as raw materials to be beneficiated elsewhere in the world, thus exporting jobs and innovation.  

To safeguard the people who hold the knowledge and expertise and ensure that they benefit, exploitation of the natural resources necessary for their livelihood and sustenance must be protected. It is a way of guaranteeing that the custodians of our genetic resources and the holders of our traditional knowledge are able to fully benefit from the tangible and intangible heritage they possess.

Your Royal Highness,  esteemed Guests,

From time immemorial, our traditional leaders played, and continue to play, a central role in the management, protection and sustainable utilisation of our indigenous biological resources to support livelihoods of their people, whilst passing their indigenous knowledge on to future generations. There can therefore be no better partner in protecting and managing our biodiversity than the institution of traditional authorities.

Taking a leaf out of their book, we can continue their legacy by looking after the variety of plants and animals that roam our land.  This is, after all, our legacy for future generations.

African totems have always been associated with indigenous species of fauna and flora.  It is therefore pleasing to note that the Kingdom adopted the Highveld Golden Arum species, locally known as Magapule Mogalapule and scientifically known as Zantedeschia jucunda, as a Bapedi Ancestral flower. This beautiful lily is confined to the summit of the Leolo Mountains in the Sekhukhune Centre of Floristic Endemism. It grows on grassy slopes, among rocks and in full sun. The plant has deep yellow flowers and spotted leaves and is popular for horticultural markets.

The species was listed as Vulnerable in 2008.  Its greatest threat is harvesting for the horticultural trade. This is allegedly being done with the aid of communities who harvest the plants and sell them for cultivation in South African nurseries.

Because the degree to which harvesting takes place and the current status of the wild population is unknown, it is important that more research is done on this species, which is often confused with its sister species (Zantedeschia pentlandii) that is found in Sekhukhuneland.  These plants, which are also yellow, but have no spots on their leaves, are threatened by mining and are also popular in the horticultural trade.

Given that both these species are found on communal land belonging to the Bapedi Kingdom, it is important to consider protecting their natural habitats whilst allowing for their propagation through mass cultivation programmes in other parts of the kingdom.  By doing this, we can avoid threatening those still existing in the wild.

Your Royal Highness and esteemed Guests,

South Africa, like the rest of the world, is already feeling the impact of climate change through increased temperatures, more frequent damaging storms and prolonged drought.  As a people, we need to take responsibility for our actions today, so that we leave a home fit for our children and grandchildren to live in.

I am happy that you have taken responsibility to protect a species under threat.  Your actions set the tone for the whole of South Africa to follow.  I wish you every success.  May your Kingdom thrive.

I thank you.


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